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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

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

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

Sex

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.

Violence

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
Plot
2
Characters
2.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis

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
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

mansion for my love donald

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

category romance
Mansion For My Love by Robyn Donald
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #567
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Love is one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Romance to Review

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are average reads which make for a pleasant way to pass the time, but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.

Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.

Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.

And, last, there are books like Mansion for My Love. This kind of book splits readers every which way, the kind no matter what you feel, everyone can’t stop talking about.

mansion for my love robyn donald
Mansion For My Love, Mills & Boon

The Plot

Faine is a great heroine, charming, independent, and open to love. She meets Burke Harding and is drawn to his strong magnetic presence.

He pursues her with a cold determination, and against her better judgment, she finds herself head over heels for him.

But while Burke is interested in her, he keeps himself at a distance.

So when Burke proposes, Faine says yes, but strangely love is never mentioned.

Finally, Faine and Burke get married, and that’s where the drama starts. This all hinges on a gimmick:

Girl meets guy, he pursues her like crazy, she falls in love, they have a whirlwind wedding, and on their wedding day, she overhears the hero declare his love for his sister-in-law who’s married to his sick brother.

What a betrayal. How can the hero ever be redeemed?

There’s more. Done wrong, the heroine, Faine, runs away from Burke, who tracks her down, demands a real marriage, pretty much forces his way into her bed, and makes her mad with love and lust.

Then the brother dies. And there is still lots of drama to come! That’s quite a bit of romantic angst to pack into a 188-page book.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”

Final Analysis of Mansion for My Love

Robyn Donald was certainly an above-average writer for the HP line. Her works evoke vivid visions of their natural settings, her heroes written in a similar brutal & obsessive vein, her heroines fighting their inner struggles to submit to cruel passion.

Mansion For My Love is genre fiction that grips you in the gut. It’s a controversial romance among its fans and detractors. It’s always a book I’ll remember, if not the tiny details, then the way it made me feel.

The heroine is great. If she were a weak pushover type, this story wouldn’t be as strong. What Burke did was so wrong, not just one deed, but another followed by another. Faine didn’t deserve to be wronged, but at the end of the day, she chose to be with Burke.

Mansion For My Love leaves me with a ton of questions.

Why did Faine love him so much? Is Burke’s transformation at the end believable? Is she second-best or first in his heart? Can he be forgiven? Does he deserve to? So many unknowns!

Despite the middling rating, an average read it is not. Mansion For My Love is not an easy book to pin down. It inspires conflicting emotions. It certainly did for me. I love this romance–and I hate it.

I don’t know if I could stomach ever reading this angsty “love story” again, but it holds a place on my keeper shelf.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

“He’s not a good man to fall in love with!”

Faine had not ignored the warning, but even without his wealth, charm and good looks, Burke Harding had magnetism.

His determined pursuit and assault on her heart soon overcame her wavering resistance. She agreed to marry him, but some deep instinct of self-preservation kept her from revealing her love–and in time her decision was vindicated.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you,” he told her when Faine discovered she was a stand-in for the woman he really loved–but could not have.

MANSION FOR MY LOVE by ROBYN DONALD
Savage Rapture walter popp

Historical Romance Review: Savage Rapture by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

book review historical romance
Savage Rapture by Sylvie F. Sommerfield
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Native American Romance, Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 542
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Savage Rapture by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Savage Rapture by Sylvie F. Sommerfield.

The Plot

Part One of Savage Rapture

Savage Rapture begins with two lovers parting company. Michael Holliday, a white doctor, leaves his wife, Waterflower, and their son, Cade, 2, with her people, the Cheyenne Indians. They make a pact: that one day, Cade will go to Michael in the white world and then return to the Cheyenne and assist them with the knowledge he gains.

Fast forward 15 years. Michael summons Cade to Washington, D.C. to expand his knowledge. Among those he leaves behind is Snow Blossom, daughter of village chief Tekata and the book’s heroine, who is deeply in love with him.

While with his father, Cade gains knowledge, becomes a doctor, and falls in love with and becomes affianced to Lauren Brent, a local heiress. However, their relationship comes apart from their disparate views on what their lives will be like.

Cade returns to the Cheyenne, as does his father Michael, with Lauren in tow.

As Cade returns to the Cheyenne camp, he falls in love with and later marries Snow Blossom.

Part Two of Savage Rapture

Her brother, White Eagle, falls in love with a white woman, Rebecca Wade, and later marries her.

When Lauren arrives, she thinks she can break Snow Blossom and Cade up and reunite with him.

Once she realizes this isn’t going to happen, Lauren becomes deeply depressed. This depression is lifted once she matures a bit and falls in love with Running Wolf, a brave from another Cheyenne band. For a while, the three couples are happy.

However, major–literally–trouble is brewing. Army major John Chivington, a known Indian-hater backed by factions in the government, hires three trappers–one with his own agenda–to kidnap the three women to try to force the Cheyenne off their land.

Snow Blossom eventually makes her way back to Cade, but not before learning a secret about his past.

Chivington is defeated–temporarily.

Snow Blossom and Cade, Running Wolf and Lauren, and Rebecca and White Eagle all extend their lineages with children, and all the couples have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

This is the first book by Mrs. Sommerfield where she really made me care about the characters. All of the characters are fully developed, and there is a strong vein of family themes running through the book.

Downside

This is more of a personal thing for me, but Savage Rapture could have been a little spicier regarding the love scenes. The ending was a little disappointing. I would have liked to see Chivington and the other evil characters get a little more comeuppance.

Sex

Mrs. Sommerfield’s love scenes are all about purple prose and euphemisms. Heat level: about a 2 or 3.

Violence

Multiple killings, which are mostly done “offscreen.” Physical violence, threats of violence, but nothing really graphic.

Bottom Line on Savage Rapture

Savage Rapture, for me, is great but not a 5-star read. More like a 4.25 or 4.5-star book.

4.38 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis:

CAPTIVE OF HIS PASSION
Beautiful Snow Blossom had waited years for Cade to return to the reservation. His warm smile and sparkling blue eyes had promised her a lifetime of fiery passion. Just the thought of their first lingering kiss made her ache with desire. Without her even knowing it she had become a…

CAPTIVE OF HIS LOVE
But as soon as the handsome half-breed rode into the Cheyenne camp, Snow Blossom knew that he had changed. He had lived in the white man’s world too long; he was in love with another. Yet when he held her in his arms all else ceased to matter. He had made her a prisoner of his passion – somehow she’d make him a captive of her heart.

Savage Rapture by Sylvie F. Sommerfield
raven

Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol

Synopsis:

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. 

RAVEN by SHANA CARROL

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

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

Sweet Savage love

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Unknown, H. Tom Hall
Book Series: Ginny & Steve #1, Morgan & Challenger Saga #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 636
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Sweet Savage Love, The (Other) Mother of Romance

Where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre: the modern romance novel.

Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation. Sweet Savage Love showed readers that “good” women could have passionate sex with a hero outside of marriage and also have passionate sex with men other than the hero.

Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the primary setting for Sweet Savage Love.

This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.

sweet-savage-love-hall
Sweet Savage Love, Alternative Cover version, Avon, Tom Hall cover art

The Hero & The Heroine

Our heroine Virginia “Ginny” Brandon, is the half-French, half-American convent-raised daughter of a US Senator. She has fiery copper hair and flashing, slanted green eyes.

Ginny loves to dance like a gypsy, kicking her legs up in the air, her skirts swirling around her. You will hear this repeated constantly throughout the book.

Steve Morgan is this romance’s–ahem–hero. He is a darkly-tanned former Union soldier with deep blue eyes and black hair.

Rogers modeled him after Clint Eastwood, among others. I also got a Gregory Peck vibe from “Duel In the Sun” about Steve.

Imagine the most macho, virile man you possibly can. Picture ovulating women throwing themselves at his feet while low-T males shrink in self-awareness as that super-male confidently swaggers by.

That imaginary ideal isn’t fit to be a pimple sprouting hair on Steve Morgan’s muscular chest.

Steve is a soldier, a spy, a cowboy, and a Comanche ally. He’s a wealthy ranchero of mixed American and Spanish-Mexican descent. He is muy hombre, as we shall see.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

The Epic Plot

Steve the Stud Meets Ginny the Dancing Gypsy

The lovely Virginia Brandon returns to the United States from France, where she had been raised in a convent. Her widowed father has remarried a gorgeous woman young woman. Much, much younger.

Ginny’s stepmother, Sonya, is quite familiar with Steve “The Stud” Morgan. They shared a passionate night together, where Steve practically raped her. Of course, Sonya enjoyed his illicit forced seduction. There are few women who haven’t fallen prey to Steve’s animal magnetism.

A scandal ensues from Sonya and Steve’s dalliance and Steve finds himself potentially facing the death penalty. He agrees to act as a spy in exchange for his life. It’s suspected that Senator Brandon is up to traitorous acts.

Senator Brandon has interests in Mexico, particularly with the controlling government of Emperor Maximillian. Steve–who is against the French–is charged with accompanying the Brandons across the country. He plans to draw them into a trap with the help of some Bandidos. The plot takes off from here.

Steve kidnaps Ginny, and though she fights him like a hellion, she–like all women with a pulse–falls for his ultra studliness. Circumstances find Ginny and Steve caught in a compromising situation and they are forced to marry.

But do you think marriage will stop Esteban Alvarado (Steve’s Spanish name) from being el tigere that he is? No way. He’s kissing broads in front of his new wife and banging other women on the side.

sweet savage love bodice ripper
Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

Two Strong-Willed, Beautiful Idiots

The best part of the story is when Ginny and Steve are trekking through the Western wilderness. But Rogers doesn’t like her characters being happy. She throws everything imaginable at them.

The action takes us to Mexico, where Ginny and Steve are separated multiple times. There are lies, deceptions, and double-crosses. Mexican soldiers violate Ginny. A deranged doctor tortures Steve…and then some!

Ginny believes Steve is dead, so she becomes the willing mistress of a young señor.

When she finds out Steve is alive, she goes in search of him. Steve believes Ginny betrayed him, so he despises her, even as he lusts after her ravishing body. Lack of communication and big misunderstandings rule the day.

Oh, will these crazy kids just get over themselves and stay together forever?

My Opinion

Hablo Espanole?

One thing I recall about Sweet Savage Love is that much of the Spanish written was almost gibberish. This was a common occurrence in a lot of 1970s and 1980s romances, be they Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers. Rosemary Rogers’ good friend Shirlee Busbee had that same issue in her book While Passion Sleeps.

Spanish is, I think, the third most common language on Earth. It should have been easy for a former secretary like Rogers to get an English-to-Spanish dictionary and copy down a few words.

Ah, well, that’s a minor gripe.

rosemary rogers bodice ripper

Fast and Furious

The book is divided into sections and begins with a long prologue. It’s a hefty brick of a novel with words in tiny font. Thankfully, Rogers’ prose isn’t as purple and verbose as Woodiwiss’, so the pace is fast.

Still, Rogers has a penchant for repeating descriptions. Mentions of Ginny’s coppery hair and slanted green eyes and Steve’s lean, muscular figure seemed to be on every page. It got tedious.

Once the book got rolling, Sweet Savage Love was a gripping read. Rogers threw so much trauma at her characters; sometimes, I didn’t want to look!

This novel is not for the squeamish, sensitive reader. I first read this at 13, which I think was too young to truly appreciate the grand scope of this tawdry bodice ripper. Sweet Savage Love scared me. I couldn’t conceive heroes and heroines could act the way Ginny and Steve did.

It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I could handle that kind of behavior because my perspectives on romance novels had expanded to be open to new experiences.

sweet savage love rosemary rogers
Sweet Savage Love, Harlequin, 2014

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Love

Sweet Savage Love is a seminal piece of fiction, a lusty saga all lovers of old-school romance should read.

I wouldn’t rank it the most incredible bodice ripper ever, however. Christine Monson’s Stormfire, Teresa Denys’ The Flesh and the Devil and The Silver Devil, and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire are better written and engaging.

In my opinion, Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies is her best book, with more sensitive characterization and deeper themes. It was just more fun than Sweet Savage Love.

The protagonists were wishy-washy and emotional, despite being adults. (At least Steve was a full-grown adult. I think Ginny was 16 or 17 in the beginning.) Steve was a slut. Ginny was a Mary Sue, too beautiful and desirable.

The immature duo couldn’t decide if they wanted to be together or not. The only thing these two could agree on was that they liked banging.

Even so, I enjoyed this overall. Ginny and Steve were larger-than-life people in a story that was larger-than-life.

Sweet Savage Love is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a thrilling co-progenitor of the modern romance genre.

I’d rate this bodice ripper between 4 and 4.5 stars. Although it’s not without flaws, I’d say it does merit a high mark.

4.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis:

A tale of human emotion that lays bare the heights and depths of love, passion and desire in old and new worlds…as we follow Virginia Brandon, beautiful, impudent and innocent, from the glittering ballrooms of Paris to the sensuality of life in New Orleans to the splendor of intrigue-filled Mexico.

A tale of unending passion, never to be forgotten…the story of Virginia’s love for Steven Morgan, a love so powerful that she will risk anything for him…even her life.

SWEET SAVAGE LOVE by ROSEMARY ROGERS
through-the-storm

Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins Through the Storm
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: TBD
Book Series: LeVeq Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Civil War Romance, Black Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent.

I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that.

Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.

The Set Up

Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of Through the Storm, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners.

Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.

The Plot

Through the Storm begins as Sable’s master is doomed to a fiery death as his home burns with him inside. Knowing she has to forge a place for herself, she flees to find sanctuary. On her travels, she meets Harriet Tubman, who tells Sable she has been waiting for her. Tubman guides Sable to a contraband camp, a haven for refugee slaves.

Sable meets Union soldier Raimond LeVeq, who wastes no time letting Sable know of his attraction to her. He’s supposed to be suave and debonair, but sometimes he came off as trying too hard. Sable rebuffs his advancements, quickly figuring out his number.

She works at the camp, does errands and chores, helping the men with letters and other duties. Nevertheless, Raimond is a charmer, and Sable finds herself falling under his allure in time.

However, the evil man who purchased Sable looms on the horizon, forcing Sable to flee yet again, this time further North. Raimond is left with no word why. What could have been love turns into mistrust and contempt.

Sable finds herself face to face with Raimond later on, this time under different circumstances. He needs to find a wife. Raimond’s mother is convinced that Sable is the woman for him. So he reluctantly finds himself committed to the woman who almost broke his heart.

Sable and Raimond reconnect, learning to trust and care for one another again. Still, they have their struggles. Raimond comes on hard, but Sable is no pushover. Raimond has a mistress, although he quickly casts her aside. And danger still looms on the horizon, with the crazed villain determined to have Sable.

Final Analysis of Through the Storm

Beverly Jenkin’s Through the Storm is a slightly uneven romance filled with multiple tropes and a hefty dose of history. I really wanted to love this but found myself skimming through some parts.

Through the Storm certainly does not merit an unfavorable rating, as I enjoyed many elements, but some of the negatives overshadowed them. The pacing is a bit off, as many events occur in one section, then nothing happens in others. Also, I could have done without some of the info-dumping “As you know Bob” dialogue.

Sable is a fantastic heroine, filled with grit and competence. Raimond is an “Alpha,” and he comes on quite intense at times. Raimond is nowhere as smooth as he thinks he is. However, I’m pleased to note that the love scenes are well-done and erotic in a very 1990s fashion.

The villain is a rather hateful beast, and I relished his comeuppance.

I appreciated that Through the Storm was no wallpaper romance. It was a genuine historical–or at least, one where historical events mattered.

All in all, I’m glad I read this one, but I think there are other romances by Jenkins that will be more suited to my tastes.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

Sable, a slave on the run to escape the cruel man she’s been sold to is forced to betray the charming Union officer Raimond LeVeq, who had romanced her and championed her.

Brought together again by fate and an arranged marriage, she must try and win the trust of LeVeq–the man she truly loves.

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
merry christmas

Category Romance Review: Merry Christmas by Emma Darcy

Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy, Harlequin, 1997, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1923

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Before I discuss this romance, let me address the unfortunate cover. I don’t care how awesome that free book bag was! The editors at Harlequin dropped the ball with this one! That vast yellow oval covers the main couple’s faces. You can’t see the heroine, the hero, or that this was Emma Darcy‘s 60th book.

Simply titled Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy’s category romance foray into the holidays may have you near tears. It may also have you wishing some evil villains get their well-deserved comeuppance. This book throws almost every trope at you but the metaphorical kitchen sink. It’s an angst-filled yet ultimately very happy Christmas Harlequin Presents.

Christmas Past

Many years ago, Meredith or Merry (Get it? Merry as in Merry Christmas?) Palmer had a summer romance with college student Nick Hamilton. Merry lied about her age, as she was technically a minor. She and Nick fell into what Meredith believed was true love. But Merry’s wicked stepmother caught wind of the relationship and informed the 21-year-old Nick he was dating a 16-year-old.

Summer came to an end. Nick went off to school, leaving Merry with a promise to reconnect every Christmas. He believed it was better they go their separate ways for the time being. They needed to both grow up a little before delving deeper into commitment.

As is usual in these cases, the affair left Merry pregnant. Merry, an orphan, lived only with her cruel stepmother. After her stepmom kicked her out, she had no one to turn to. So Merry went to Nick’s family, hoping she could get in contact with Nick. That’s when Nick’s (also) cruel sister gave her shocking news. Nick had been in a surfing accident, and his memory was affected so severely that he had no recollection of their “love.”

So Merry could just scat, thank you very much.

When Merry revealed her pregnancy as the reason she needed to talk with Nick, the sister pounced. She manipulated Merry into thinking it would be best if Merry gave her child up for adoption. The sister conspired to take the baby and raise her as her own child, never letting Nick know he was his “niece’s” true father.

Christmas Present

Over a decade later, the sister and her husband are dead. Their “daughter” Kimberly is under her uncle Nick’s guardianship, who has no idea of her true parentage. Kimberly’s not too keen on her uncle’s girlfriend and knows the feeling is mutual. She had heard enough secret conversations in the past to learn she was adopted. Consequently, she demands to meet her biological mother.

Somehow Nick is able to track Merry down. She’s now working as a successful florist. When Merry and Nick meet once more, alas, he doesn’t recognize her at all. Merry is devastated that he doesn’t recall their love affair, which meant so much to her. She’s been celibate and pining for him for over 12 years.

Merry is anxious to meet Kimberly. Nevertheless, she is devastated the love of her life doesn’t remember her.

Making the situation worse is that Nick has a mean fiancee who thinks she’s better than everyone else. Merry and Kimberly included.

Nick is drawn to Merry, as deep in his subconscious he knows that there’s a connection between them. When the fiancee gets kicked to the curb, Nick pursues Merry.

Kimberly, for her part, is delighted. She hated her uncle’s girlfriend. Nothing would please her more if her mother and her “uncle” were to fall in love.

Christmas Future

But keep in mind, Nick still doesn’t remember who Merry is. He wants to know more about Kimberly’s parentage. The story of Merry having a summer-fling with a young man who pledged to keep in touch but never did resonates with Nick.

Just who is Merry?

In the end, all is revealed. The truth behind Merry and Nick’s separation and Kimberly’s heritage comes to light. Nick is shocked by the depths of his sister’s machinations. It’s a good thing she’s dead. There’s no one left alive to be punished for her crimes. Rather than dwell on bitterness, Merry, Nick, and Kimberly focus on their newfound happiness and the future.

Final Analysis of Merry Christmas

The trio comes together as a family in the unity of Christmas. The ending of Merry Christmas was super sweet. It’s the kind of story that makes you believe in miracles.

I initially gave this 3 1/2 stars, added an extra 1/2 star for its wonderfully corny and uplifting Holiday spirit.

Paradise and More

Historical Romance Review: Paradise and More by Shirl Henke

historical romance review
Paradise and More by Shirl Henke
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Pino
Book Series: House of Torres #1
Published by: Dorchester, Leisure
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 443
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Paradise and More by Shirl Henke

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and the Cover

Paradise and More by Shirl Henke is memorable to me for having one of the most eye-catching covers in romance. A dazzling beauty by Pino Daeni, it features a fully naked couple in a glorious clinch, their nudity covered by some strategically placed flowers and the book’s title.

Lamentably, I have a later reissue where their nakedness is hidden behind a respectable-looking stepback. Why would anyone want to hide that stunning beauty?

As for the book itself? I was conflicted. It’s both excellent at times and frustrating at others.

The Old World

A swashbuckling historical, Paradise and More is the first entry in the House of Torres duo. This romance is in late 1400s Spain. This is a seminal time in history with Columbus’ exploration into the “New World.” This was months after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. The Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon had just reconquered the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims who had entered Hispania 700 years prior.

Lady Magdalena Luisa Valdes–for some unfathomable reason–falls madly in love at first sight with Aaron “Diego” Torres, the son of a wealthy converso family (a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism).

Aaron is arrogant and contemptuous of Magdalena, a wonderful character with the kind of fortitude that makes a heroine legendary. Beautiful and kind-hearted, Magdalena has to navigate court intrigues to avoid the eyes of the Reyes Católicos. This is to say, the King’s wandering eyes and the Queen’s jealous ones.

To flee from prejudice and persecution, Aaron decides to travel the uncharted seas with Columbus as his second-in-command, to search for new lands. Meanwhile, Magdalena befriends Aaron’s family, becoming like a second daughter to them.

After a successful conquest, Aaron returns to find Magdalena living in his parents’ household. He takes advantage of her crush on him and forces himself upon her. After ravishing her, he leaves to return to the newfound colonies. The Torres family demands honor and avow their wayward son must marry their darling Magdalena.

Destiny has tragedy in store for the House of Torres, as they are accused of heresy by the Inquisition and then executed.

The New World

Alone in the world, Magdalena has but one mission in her life: to be with the man she loves. She follows Aaron across the ocean to Columbus’ settlement in Hispaniola. Despite his contemptible behavior towards her, Magdalena still wants to marry Aaron.

However, when Magdalena arrives, she finds Aaron already has a mistress, the Native Princess, Aliyah. What’s more, Aliyah is pregnant with Aaron’s child.

As a lone European woman in Hispaniola, Magdalena draws much attention from men, including the brothers of Columbus. Aaron cannot deny the allure she holds. And though he will never be forced to do anything against his will, Aaron knows his family’s final wishes were for him to marry Magdalena.

The tropical backdrop makes an appropriate setting for their heated attraction. Their passion for each other grows to a climax. After they marry, Aaron and Magdalena find that their adventures together are just beginning. Aaron’s spurned mistress connives with the villains to destroy him in every way she can. Aaron and Magdalena must work together to overcome even more obstacles.

Final Analysis of Paradise and More

I loved that Paradise and More took us to late 15th-century Spain, an era I can’t get enough of. Columbus’ expedition into the Americas was an unusual backdrop for a romance. Shirl Henke did a great job capturing the era, even though her protagonists were sometimes a bit too modern in their thinking.

This epic, late-era bodice ripper is a tumultuous read that features a loveable, resilient heroine, but the hero is a bit of a jerk and not in a good way. Although I must say, the love scenes were…oh my! ¡Muy caliente!

The first half of this book was so good and filled with action: bloody sword fights, the hero’s entire family being killed, forced seduction, and the spanning of years & continents. Although, when Magdalena got to Hispanola, the pace slowed down a bit.

Aaron was a douche canoe. If not for the machinations of the scorned “other-woman,” Aliyah, the last half would have dragged needlessly.

All in all, I found Paradise and More to be a mostly diverting historical romance that took both history and romance seriously. This had a great cover, a likable heroine, and a unique setting. It needed a to-die-for hero to elevate it to a spectacular level.

For those curious to continue the story, the love lives of Aaron’s two sons are told in the sequel, Return to Paradise.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

Second in command to Cristobal Colon, Aaron sets sail for the Indies seeking adventure in the new world and fleeing persecution in the old. Caught between King Fernando’s desire and Queen Ysabel’s jealousy, Magdalena follows the man she has always loved to the ends of the known world and beyond. Drawn together across religious barriers and storm-tossed oceans, they discover a lush paradise fraught with danger and desire.

PARADISE AND MORE by SHIRL HENKE
6 Harlequin Presents Villains

6 Horrifying Villainous Heroes in Harlequin Presents

6 Harlequin Presents Villains

Evil Heroes

Since Halloween is just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at the scary side of romance. No, not Gothic romances, although we’ll get to more soon. We’re talking about villainous heroes in romance novels.

The Harlequin Presents line was notorious for the cruelty some male protagonists could inflict upon their heroines. Most of these books are surprisingly well-written. Yet the horrific truth is that the hero could be the villain in a romance.

Villainous main characters were popular forty years ago, and they still continue to be popular with readers to this day. Why would anyone ever want to read romances where heroes are the bad guys?

shiny carved pumpkin and knife on halloween night

Well, why not? So long as we understand we’re reading fiction, at times, it’s hypnotizing to take a peek at the darkness that lurks beneath the human surface. To witness what sadistic torments twisted love can create.

And then, thankfully, close the pages on that romantic nightmare.

Harlequin Presents’ Villainous Male Main Characters

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re equally about the Sweet… And the savage.

We’ve compiled a list of 6 villainous heroes from Harlequin Presents romances. We have placed them in order of publication. It would be near impossible to rank which male main character is the evilest.

Trick or Treat.

Andreas, Storm Centre

Only Charlotte Lamb could create such a despicable hero as Andreas and still make the story so hypnotizing! Storm Centre is a car wreck read.

6 villain heroes
Storm Centre, Charlotte Lamb

Burke, Mansion For My Love

Mansion For My Love was a hard book to review. I’ve both hated and loved many of Robyn Donalds Harlequin Presents.

villain hero romance Mansion For My Love, Robyn Donald3
Mansion For My Love, Robyn Donald

Nicholas, The Guarded Heart

Another cruel Robyn Donald hero! Now this book, The Guarded Heart I despised Nicholas so much. He was irredeemable!

villain hero romance The Guarded Heart, Robyn Donald
The Guarded Heart, Robyn Donald

Hugo, Shattered Dreams

Sally Wentworth created yet another hero who in a crazed, jealous lunatic. But the writing was compelling in Shattered Dreams!

villain hero romance
Shattered Dreams, Sally Wentworth

Jake, Indiscretion

Anne Mather usually wrote reliably entertaining books. Indiscretion was like a gory car crash I couldn’t look away from!

6 villain heroes 6
Indiscretion, Anne Mather

Mark, The Marriage War

And finally, here’s Charlotte Lamb with another detestable hero with The Marriage War. Even Lamb’s stellar writing couldn’t make the villain hero, Mark, likable.

6 villain heroes
The Marriage War, Charlotte Lamb

Your Opinion on Villain As the Hero in Romance

Do you think these villainous heroes are too cruel for love? What other heroes in romance could qualify as villains? Please, drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

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

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

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!

frost and flame drusilla campbell

Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

historical romance review
The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Published by: Gallen Books, Pocket Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 360
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

Drusilla Campbell‘s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain.

For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.

The Crazy Plot and Characters

I loved the Russian setting of The Frost and the Flame. The heroine’s growth as a character was fun to watch. Alas, the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!

Eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova is a convent-bred naif. While traveling across the cold depths of Russia, she and her companions are attacked.

The dashing blond Prince Oleg saves her. The Prince seems so sweet and kind at first, but he soon proves to be a lustful rogue. Nothing will stop him from possessing Tanya.

Prince Oleg is seriously obsessed with Tanya, but he’s not in love. He’s not capable of true feeling. Don’t dare think the villain in The Frost and the Flame has a heart

Even the demonic, baby-killing Robert Bellesme of Anita Mills’s Lady Of Fire was more of a romantic softy than Oleg. Oleg loves to abuse and use his Tanya, but he does not care about her. He degrades her in awful sorts of ways, so make no mistake about finding redemption in him!

Plus, the dude is going crazy. It’s hinted that Oleg has a brain tumor or something because his headaches make him act more insane.

Even as Oleg will do whatever it takes to make Tanya his, he also has a cruel and jealous wife who will stop at nothing to see Tanya pay. Poor Tanya suffers so much through this book. It’s one catastrophe after another.

But wait, there’s more! There’s a twisted secret–

No, no, I won’t say. I spoil enough romances; I won’t spoil another. Although I’d hardly call this bodice-ripper a true romance.

As for the hero? Well, Tanya spends much of it separated from her boring Alexei. He vows to have his Tanya and pines for her, however, ends up having affairs of his own. Not much of a hero, but Tanya loved him, so I tried not to dislike him. There’s not much to like or dislike about Alexei. He’s just there.

The Unconventional Ending to an Unconventional “Romance”

At the conclusion of The Frost and the Flame, Tanya is reunited with her beloved Alexei. Sadly, Tanya has been so hurt by Oleg’s torments that marriage is not on her agenda right away. She loves Alexei, yes, although wants to have a deeper relationship with him before taking it further.

Final Analysis of The Frost and the Flame

So this is a unique romance, The Frost and the Flame, has a Happy For Now ending, not necessarily a Happily Ever After.

Am I ok with that? Bodice rippers occupy a strange corner in Romancelandia, where they can do just about anything. As long as it’s an optimistic ending and the book was fun, I don’t mind. This one was.

Oleg, the psycho villain, was the star of the show. I enjoyed watching his mental and spiritual decline while Tanya grows from an innocent girl to a mature woman. This may not be everyone’s idea of an entertaining romance; however, I consider myself a satisfied reader. I’m holding on to this one!

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.4

Synopsis

Convent-bred and seductively beautiful, eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova was journeying across Russia when suddenly a band of murderous serfs attacked her traveling party. Soon she was rescued from her frozen hiding place by none other than the dashing Prince Oleg Romanov — only to become the object of his insatiable lust.

Helpless to defend herself against this cruel aristocrat, Katiana had no choice by to become his frigid, taunting mistress — despite the vindictive jealousy of Oleg’s wife, Princess Elizabeth.

But Katia longed only for Alexei, the gentle handsome nobleman whose very soul seemed to burn with a quiet passion — for his people and — could she hope? — for her.

Ravished and betrayed, Katia would eventually escape Oleg’s clutches to a country half a world away. But would she ever be reunited with the man who could melt her frozen passion with the glorious flame of his love?

The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

The Frost and the Flame is available for borrowing for free at the Internet Archive

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

SPOILER ALERT ⚠️

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
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

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

MILD SPOILERS 😉

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
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.4

SYNOPSIS

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…

STORMSPELL by ANNE MATHER
norm eastman divided heart

Historical Book Review: Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes

historical romance review

Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Norm Eastman
Published by: Pinnacle
Genres: American Revolution Romance, Colonial Era Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Book Review: Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is typical of the many schlocky bodice rippers that glutted the market in the ’70s and early ’80s.

The heroine goes through so many horrific tragedies–attempted rape, starvation, war, death of loved ones, betrayal, disease, imprisonment, beatings, and whippings–that would make the average woman look like a “faces-of-meth” poster.

However, no matter how battered and bruised, emaciated, lice-infested her hair, and filthy and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is Augusta Raleigh with emerald eyes and raven curls.

The Plot

Augusta seals her fate on July 4, 1774, when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army.

The story starts promisingly, as it’s lust at first sight for the Redcoat officer and the Patriot girl.

Then a harsh reality hits: the writing is terrible! Phrases are redundantly repeated, followed by contradictory thoughts in the same sentence. Sometimes conversations are summarized, other times, there’s nothing but dialogue, and you can’t tell what’s going on as scenes blend into one another.

The plot, as convoluted as it is, is interesting.

David is an unapologetic man-slut horndog. He courts Augusta but intends to love her and leave her. His first time with Augusta goes something like this:

David: Hey, baby… I just saved you from being raped. How’s about a little thank you?
Augusta: Okey-dokey.
David: How’s about I rape you?
Augusta: Okey-dokey. Wait… What?

Later Augusta visits him at headquarters and finds him entertaining a woman in bed. Naturally, Augusta leaves in anger. Then a few paragraphs down, he’s seducing her!

David’s a wonderful cad. So it’s unfortunate the couple is separated for a significant portion of this short 346-paged novel–as often occurs in these books.

A Gender Bender of a Bodice Ripper

After a life-changing heartbreak, Augusta is off to war. She disguises herself as a boy, wraps those boobs up tightly, and spends a year (years?) marching and camping with lots of men.

Hmm. What could possibly go wrong with that?

She fights bravely at the Battle of Long Island, killing all Redcoats in her sights, and she saves her best friend, Tad. Young and gay, Tad–like so many men–falls in love with her.

Dressed as a boy, Augusta’s powers of seduction are irresistible. All men are attracted to her: gay, straight, and bisexual. This book was definitely a gender-bending read, and at times Augusta flirts heavily with transgenderism, thinking:

“What will I be? What will I do? I will have destroyed myself as a woman. The gentleness and softness that men find so appealing will be gone. Yet I can never be a man. I will be neither fish nor fowl…”

Part Deborah Samson, part Scarlett O’Hara, part Mata Hari, and part Helen Reddy, Augusta, spends years searching for revenge and love. She experiences the “cruel sexual humiliation of lustful men” (at least, that is what the cover says) before she gets her happy ending.

Final Analysis of Divided Heart

Divided Heart‘s bodice ripper highlights include attempted rape, forced seduction, heroine-dressing-as-a-boy, whippings galore, adult-man-on-teen-female-sex, adult-man-on-teen-male-sex, sex with men besides the hero, oral sex, anal sex…

Yup. Divided Heart is tawdry.

Is it any good? Well, it wasn’t horrible. It had its moments.

Divided Heart waffles between being a tasteless, balls-to-wall bodice ripper and a dry historical lesson of the early battles in the American Revolution.

Angelica Aimes wasn’t skilled enough to pull off the history part. She should have stuck to what she was good at, the trashy side. Apparently, after writing bodice rippers, Aimes wrote several novelizations of The Young The Restless, which about sums it up.

I’m not knocking soaps. As a youngun, I watched them all, Y&R included. I remember plots from 40 years ago, like Lauren being buried alive by that crazy wacko and then losing her and Paul’s baby (I am old.)

Divided Heart, at times, feels rushed, more like a summary of scenes than an actual narrative tale. Significant events are glossed over. Scenes transition oddly. It’s just a mess.

I can overlook lousy writing if the plot is to my liking. In this case, sort of. 

Despite being horribly written, Divided Heart is not without a sleazy bit of charm. It entertained.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.8

Synopsis

MY ENEMY, MY LOVE
In 1774, Augusta Raleigh is a southern belle with her father’s fiery temper and her mother’s dark beauty, and she’s easy prey to the charms of a handsome British officer. But when war is declared, headstrong Augusta is hopelessly divided between her broud Virginian family and the dashing Redcoat captain…

Torn from her lover’s side, Augusta will be condemned as a traitor, despised by the Colonists and distrusted by the British. She will know the cruel sexual humiliations of lustful men, and she will flee the ravaged battlefields of home for the sophisticated salons of Paris. But her wild, warring heart will not know peace until she is reunited with the one man who is both her country’s enemy and her greatest love.

Divided Heart by angelica aimes