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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
sweet savage surrender sivavec

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett
Rating: half-star
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Diane Sivavec
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

WARNING ⚠: MILD SPOILERS & SUPER-BORING BOOK 

The Book

Sweet Savage Surrender, a Zebra Lovegram that was written by mother-daughter duo Marcia Hockett and Kathryn Kramer, aka Kathryn Hockett, is a romance between two star-crossed lovers from different worlds.

It, unfortunately, includes a hated trope of mine, instant love. “Insta-luv,” or love at first sight, is acceptable if and only if there are exciting obstacles the couple has to overcome.

Oh, there are obstacles here, all right, but boring ones.

A Preamble

I always appreciate a Native American romance that attempts to delve deeply and respectfully into the cultures of the people written about. At least, I thought I did until I realized without an engaging plot or romance to go with said respect, the novel comes off pandering and weirdly self-debasing.

Was Sweet Savage Surrender so terrible to deserve my scorn, then? Scorn, no! However, it was incredibly dull, sad to say. The romance is lacking, as the main characters fall in love right away and don’t spend much time together. Everyone is so black-and-white here. The good guys are perfect and the baddies are very bad.

Instant Love and Not Much Else

Sky Raven of the Arapaho People is a half-Native, Half-American woman with fair skin and blue eyes. I don’t know where those blue eyes came from. I know Mendelian genetics alone no longer applies to eye color, but I always thought one has to have recessive genes on both parents’ sides to get blue eyes. Green or hazel would have made more sense.

Anyway, Sky Raven comes upon an injured Anglo-American soldier being held captive by her enemy tribe, the Utes. She arranges to save the man and then nurses him back to health. As her grandfather is her tribe’s medicine man, this knowledge comes easy to Sky Raven.

The soldier is Major John Hanlen of the United States Army. He takes one look at Sky Raven and is instantly smitten. It doesn’t take long before Sky Raven feels the same way about the Yankee soldier.

“The spirits have brought us together. This was meant to be. I love you, Skyraven,” declares Major John Hanlen at 17% into this dull read.

Some Hot Pipe Action

If this book had anything interesting about it, I would have added a half star. Alas, even the sex is snoozerific.

Foreplay includes SkyRaven describing the Arapaho peace pipe ceremony, which turns John Hanlen on:

“Explain more about the ceremony and your beliefs so that I can understand.”
“The peace pipe is our most sacred possession. It is really the heart of all our sacred ceremonies…”


“And could this peace pipe ceremony help to bring harmony between your people and my soldiers?”


“I believe it could be so. The spirits want there to be peace or they would never have led me to you.” Her soul knew the gentle power of love. His caress upon her was an affirmation of life and contentment.

“I care very deeply for you,” he said softly. There was no doubt in his mind as he looked into the innocent, sincere questioning eyes looking up at him. He did have deep feelings for this beautiful, brave young woman that went beyond his gratitude for having saved his life.


“And I, you,” she managed to say before his lips were again upon her own, tasting the honey, the sweetness, and the softness…

The Conclusion to This Boring Romance

John Hanlen returns to his army and tries his best to get them not to go after the Arapaho. But there’s a commanding officer named Colonel Chivington who hates the tribe and will stop at nothing to destroy them.

So the big obstacle in this romance is that he wants to exterminate the Arapaho and John Hanlen has to stop it from happening.

Sky Raven waits among her people waiting for John Hanlen to arrive (That’s what Sky Raven calls him, not John, but John Hanlen. It got pretty weird during intimate scenes where she calls him by his full name.)

Will he be able to prevent Chivington from wiping out the Arapaho people? Will true love have its day?

Wait! More Minor Irritations…

Rather than focusing on romance, I’ll just note some nits I have to pick with this book:

Nocturnal animals out in the daytime:

“The beaver was busily building a new home for themselves, the squirrels were storing food in a hole in a tree, a large mother raccoon was teaching her kits…”

A mother raccoon with her babies out in the day? Maybe just before dusk, not in broad daylight. They could be rabid.

“There was an old Arapaho saying that Skyraven thought of now. ‘Let tomorrow take care of itself.’”

Didn’t the Bible say that? Yup, I checked. It’s in Matthew 6:34. Okay, I’ll ignore that because Hockett was probably trying to demonstrate how similar Arapaho are to European-descended Americans.

The word “thug” was used, and it took me out of place. I know from my 9th grade Social Studies “thug” referred to a certain criminal element from India in the 1800s, not to Native Americans of that same time period.

People shake their heads yes. I nod my head yes and shake it no. Okay, maybe body language was different in post-Civil War America.

These are minor irritations, but honestly, they were the most interesting facets of this read.

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Surrender

In its attempt to be a respectful tale about the Arapaho people–a noble intent, which is admirable–Sweet Savage Surrender forgot to add a little spice to its sweetness. The villains are one-dimensionally evil, and the good guys are one-dimensionally good. It’s very paint-by-numbers and boring.

Sky Raven and John Hanlen fall in love right away, then spend most of Sweet Savage Surrender separated as he tries to prevent atrocities from being committed against her people. He succeeds, and they meet up and live happily ever after.

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you enjoy romances where the love story takes a back seat to the action and history. Then again, there’s not much action here, either, just talking, worrying, and introspection. This was not a fun book to experience.

Rating: 1/2 Star (The cover points don’t count!)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.3

Synopsis

CAPTIVE ENCHANTMENT
With skin of creamy satin and hair of ebon silk, Skyraven was the pride of her Arapaho tribe. But the voluptuous maiden had not yet met the warrior who could stir her blood… until the day she came upon the golden-haired man in the clearing — a man as sleek and powerful as the most magnificent brave. She quickly freed the handsome stranger from the cruel bonds that held him captive… only to succumb to his seductive charms once he’d regained his awesome strength. And though their passion was forbidden, the hot-blooded half-breed soon burned for the fiery rapture of her lover’s embrace!

TENDER TORMENT
After his capture by the Utes, Major John Hanlen thought death was a heartbeat away. Instead, he opened his eyes to see an enchanting, indigo-eyed angel sweetly tending his wounds. He knew he shouldn’t jeopardize his peace-seeking mission by making love to the young beauty, but just the sight of her aroused him to distraction! And once he’d tasted the secret sweetness of her deepest desires, he became her willing slave, yearning only to savor, again and again, her Sweet Savage Surrender…

SWEET SAVAGE SURRENDER by KATHRYN HOCKETT

Comanche Love Song

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

book review historical romance
Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black
Rating: half-star
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Don Case
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

The Book

This review is of Comanche Love Song a standalone Zebra Heartfire from June 1989 by Cheryl Black.

The Plot

Part 1 of Comanche Love Song

The book begins in Stonewall County, Texas, in 1855. A family is doing chores around their farm. Only one member of the family, a then-two-year-old girl, will be alive by the end of the day.

Fast forward 17 years. U.S. Army Major Walker Grayson meets up with a group of soldiers, who have a captive with them named Silver Dawn. She is the heroine of the book and is the girl–now an adult–mentioned earlier.

Silver Dawn has been raised by the Comanche since they took her from her family at age 2. She tries various times to escape Army custody but is always brought back.

Meanwhile, she and Walker are becoming attracted to each other, later becoming lovers–and married in Comanche tradition.

Soon after their first intimate encounter, Walker takes Silver Dawn to Fort Nacogdoches, Texas, where things don’t go well for her.

Part 2 of Comanche Love Song

The scene then shifts to Louisiana, where we meet Walker’s family. There is the father Samuel, stepmother Kathren, sister Amanda, brother Seth, and Camelia Rhinehart, Walker’s fiance.

Silver becomes aware of the Grayson family drama and starts a little of her own.

In the end, the Grayson family loses several members but gains others when Silver Dawn and Walker add to the family, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

I made a vow to finish every book I purchased with my own money. That vow remains intact.

Downside

Where to begin? Comanche Love Song is a hot mess. First, Walker captures Silver Dawn, then has sex with her despite having a fiance back in Louisiana!

When Walker takes Silver to Louisiana, the book changes to a 1980’s soap opera with mostly unlikeable characters and storylines that are convoluted and beyond stupid.

There is no character development at all.

There is no romance between Silver Dawn and Walker. Basically, the only time they’re together is when they are having sex. They’re apart from each other for about 75% of the book. And most of that is due to Walker locking her up. Yes, a great way to show you love someone is to imprison them.

Sex

The love scenes between Silver Dawn and Walker are fairly mild, don’t generate any heat, and are not erotic.

Violence

Assault, battery, shooting, and killing all take place during Comanche Love Song. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Comanche Love Song

Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black has now passed Eugenia’s Embrace by Cassie Edwards as the worst book I’ve ever read.

At least Eugenia’s Embrace had sex scenes going for it. Ms. Black’s book has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’d give this zero stars if I could.

.5 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.2

Synopsis:

RHYTHM OF RAPTURE

Though her skin was milky white, lovely Silver Dawn never thought she was anything less than all Comanche. And when she first set eyes on the despicable Major Walker Grayson, the savage beauty could only hate the man who was out to kill her red-skinned grandfather. Yet somehow his green eyes made her pulse hammer with excitement, his rock hard frame made her yearn for his loving touch. And even as her mind vowed to stab the treacherous paleface, her body swore her total surrender!

DANCE OF DESIRE

If the ambitious Major Grayson could kill the infamous Horse Back, he’d be assured of an important position back East. Then he captured the Indian chief’s “daughter”, the wild, spirited Silver Dawn, and Walker calculated he’d earn more prestige by returning the white squaw to civilization. But as the hot-blooded officer struggled to tame her, primal lust made him forget his career. Now all that mattered was dominating her each day, fulfilling her each night, and forever falling under the spell of her… COMANCHE LOVE SONG

COMANCHE LOVE SONG by CHERYL BLACK
cherish me, embrace me berni

Historical Romance Review: Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

book review historical romance
Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Oliviero Berni
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield, a 1983 Zebra historical romance set during the American Civil War.

The book begins in 1851 in France. The coming revolution forces Jules Dubonne, his wife Marie, their three children, sons Alexander and Dante, and daughter, Celeste, to leave France. They sail to a new home they believe will be free from war and violence, America.

They will soon discover the fallacy of that belief.

The Plot

Tragedy strikes when a storm hits, throwing Dante overboard. He is taken in by a couple, Virginia and Gregory Wakefield, who desperately wants a son. Virginia has had four miscarriages. Dante, who believes his family is dead, is adopted by the Wakefields. He takes the name Dan Dubonne-Wakefield.

The rest of the Dubonne family make their way to their planned destination, Philadelphia.

At 16, Dan meets Abby Southerland and falls in love with her. Abby, however, doesn’t share his feelings.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the other Dubonnes’ lives go on, albeit with a hole in their hearts for Dante. Daughter Celeste falls in love with a young man, Wesley Rainey, whom she later marries.

Meanwhile, Alexander meets Abby at a party. They soon become lovers.

What Alexander doesn’t know is that Abby is a Confederate spy. The information she receives from him and other Northerners is used against them in the Civil War. Alexander later finds out about Abby’s activities, thus creating a major rift between them.

At one point, Alexander and Dan/Dante face each other on the battlefield, bringing home the stark point of the Civil War was “Brother against Brother.”

Cherish Me, Embrace Me concludes as the Civil War ends. Dan marries Catherine Markland, Abby’s cousin, and Alexander and Abby marry. Dan learns the truth about his past.

Finally, a figure from Alexander’s past helps the Dubonne-Southerland-Wakefield triumvirate heal the wounds. They all can look forward to a bright future and several Happily Ever Afters.

Upside

Cherish Me, Embrace Me is Mrs. Sommerfield at her best with this Civil War drama. It’s a quality Zebra romance that is very emotional. The characters find themselves dealing with changes and heartache but come out the other side stronger.

Downside

Despite the emotions displayed, I feel Mrs. Sommerfield could have gone deeper into her character’s emotions than she did.

Sex

There are several love scenes focusing on the emotional aspect of lovemaking and far less on the esoterics of the act.

Violence

Most of the violence takes place “offscreen.” There are scenes of Jules having to kill two people who try to stop the Dubonnes from leaving France.

Bottom Line on Cherish Me, Embrace Me

Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylve F. Sommerfield was a wonderful, highly emotional book, but there was still the potential for more.

4.80

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

SYNOPSIS

CHERISH ME
Possess me. Never let me go. These fiery words of love lingered in Abby’s heart, although she knew it was wrong to want Alexander. She’d sworn she’d never surrender to the Yankees, that she’d never let them rule her plantation or her life. But once she felt the exquisite ecstasy of his demanding lips, she damned him, despised him, yet desired him like no other man she had ever known.

EMBRACE ME
Caress me. Be mine forever. If only Alexander could convince the southern vixen that passion was more important than loyalty that together their love could conquer the war! No matter how hard she tried to fight him, he could feel her whole body respond to his touch. He would tease her with searing kisses, torture her with his flesh, make her cry out in rapture and torment.

CHERISH ME, EMBRACE ME by SYLVIE F. SOMMERFIELD
angel's caress deana james franco

Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

book review historical romance
Angel's Caress by Deana James
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Hunter-Gillard Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Civil War Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Forced Seduction
Pages: 447
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and the Characters

This review is of Angel’s Caress, book #4 in the “Texas/ Hunter-Gillard” series by Deana James. (Zebra/KensingtonJuly 1989).

Heroine: Fair Eleanor-Christine “Ellie Crain,” 16. Black hair, golden eyes.

Hero: Cash Gillard. Dark blonde hair, brown eyes. Courier/soldier, Union Army. Rapist.

The Plot

Part I: There Came an Angel from the East

The book begins on a farm in Tennessee during the Civil War. Living on the farm are members of the Crain family. There is an unnamed man called Grandpaw; his daughter, Mahala; her stepdaughter Fair Eleanor-Christine ”Ellie” Crain; and Mahala’s biological children, two daughters, Mary Magdalene and Viola; and a brother, Jeremiah “Jere.”

Mahala’s husband–-and the children’s father–-Thomas Peyton, is off fighting for the Confederacy in the war. The family is forced out of their home by Union soldiers.

Among them is Cash Gillard, the hero of the book. Cash later rapes Ellie.

Part II: In Frost!

Upon discovering Ellie and Cash’s relationship, Mahala throws Ellie out of the Crain homestead. Ellie goes with Cash and becomes a laundress for the Union Army.

We also learn a bit about Cash’s background. He is the son of Alex Gillard, and the grandson of Caroline Fancy England Gillard and Hunter Gillard, from Deana James’ previous Zebra romance, Captive Angel.

Alex later appears, separately visiting both Cash and Ellie.

Part III: Out Fire!

Ellie returns home, and Cash is shot and wounded as the fighting in the war intensifies. He later comes to the Crain homestead, where Ellie nurses him back to health, much to the chagrin of Mahala, who orders him to leave.

Cash does, taking Ellie with him and they live… Happily one supposes.

Upside

The best part of Angel’s Caress is the last chapter, where some of the questions raised after Captive Angel are answered. The revelations are both surprising and interesting.

Downside

Unfortunately, this information is in chapter 28, which means to get to it, one has to go through 27 other chapters. And that is where the problems lie.

The book contains many elements I didn’t understand or like, such as paranormal elements. I can accept some paranormal elements in books, but the ones in Angel’s Caress are both hard to understand and accept for me.

The characters in the book fall into two categories: not interesting or unlikeable. And some, like Ellie and Cash, fall into both.

I was uncomfortable with Ellie falling in love with a “man” who raped her. However, I also understood it. In my personal and professional experience, people who grow up in dysfunctional homes–and Ellie’s home is definitely dysfunctional–will, in all likelihood, have at least one dysfunctional relationship with a non-family member at some point in their lives.

Cash is a rapist. Nothing more needs to be said about him.

There is no character development and the storylines–such as they are–are incredibly boring.

Sex

There are two “love” scenes post-Cash’s rape of Ellie. The scenes try to generate heat but fail.

Violence

Assault, battery, rape, shooting, and killings all occur during Angel’s Caress. The violence is mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Angel’s Caress

The book Ms. James wrote prior to this, Captive Angel, was a Rolls-Royce book. This was entirely due to that book’s heroine, Caroline Fancy England Gillard. Angel’s Caress is a Ford Edsel.

The ONLY thing keeping this book above 1 star is the first half of chapter 28.

***

Settings: Tennessee, circa 1862.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist Hero. Underage heroine

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

Synopsis:

Ellie looked like heaven. After seeing nothing but the blue-coated soldiers for months, sweet sixteen-year-old Ellie Crain was the sexiest sight virile Cash Gillard had ever set his battle-weary eyes on. And as a man unused to sensual deprivation, nothing could’ve kept the Yankee corporal away from the innocent farm girl’s ivory skin and youthful curves. Planning to love and leave the wench, he suppressed his tender feelings for her. But as he satisfied his desire, their fates were bound ever tighter with each kiss, each whisper, each caress.

Raised on a southern Tennessee farm, clever Ellie Crain was no stranger to the facts of life and she recognized the gleam in the Union officer’s eyes as pure animal lust. The untouched beauty steeled herself against the Northerner’s invasion and was shocked to feel his touch gentle, his embrace arousing. The inexperienced girl blossomed into a passionate woman who would fight to keep her first man. Cash had taken her against her will now she’d make him pay for making her respond with a lover’s heart and an Angel’s Caress.

ANGEL’S CARESS by DEANA JAMES
heather cordia byers

Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

Heather by Cordia Byers
Rating: one-star
Published: 1979
Illustrator: James Griffin
Published by: Fawcett
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Cavalier Era Romance
Pages: 316
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book – Heather by Cordia Byers

The best thing I can say about Heather by Cordia Byers is that it’s a terrific cure for insomnia.

Why, oh why, did I not listen to the words of wisdom and DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper? Like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur.

It turned out things did happen. Another event followed those things. And then another thing happens…

However, none of it has any zing or excitement. It’s all just words on paper.

So Boring

In Heather, events occur while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. That’s absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper.

These are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the reader. Either by offending or delighting, or titillating them.

I was a little offended, I suppose. Not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.

heather cordia byers
Heather, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1979, cover artist unknown

The Plot

Part One: Heather, the Ward

Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative. Even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either.

Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David, although she knows that her love is hopeless.

Enter Sir Nicholas Guyon, the studly and handsome Captain of the king’s guard. He takes one look at Heather and becomes instantly obsessed. Why? Because she’s bee-uu-tee-full, of course.

Did you expect any other reason, like her charm, personality, wit, or even foot-stomping, spicy temper? Egads, no. None of that here. Heather is the blankest slate of a character I’ve read in a long time.

Nevertheless, Heather’s heart is only for David. She despises Nicholas since that’s what the story demands.

Part Two: Heather, the Mistress

After David is assumed dead at sea and the Marquis is arrested for treason, Heather heads to London to live an exciting life in the big city. But Heather’s so dumb; she gets conned and robbed of her money.

Subsequently, she ends up in a whorehouse as Madame’s specialty. Of course, because Heather is so bee-uu-tee-full, she’s not pimped out right away. The Madame has plans to sell her to the highest bidder. Well, guess who that happens to be?

Nicholas has now been promoted to the high rank of British Ambassador to France (that made no sense to me). Heather still hates him, but she realizes his exalted position could benefit her.

So she devises a plan to play along, being Nicholas’ mistress, to save the Marquis. For a virgin who hates a guy so much, Heather sure has a lot of confidence in the magic powers of her cuca.

Part Three: I Don’t Care Anymore

After Nicholas seduces her into his bed, causing passion to stir between Heather’s loins, who should come back from the dead?

It’s Heather’s beloved David, who was held captive by pirates and now has a secret identity as…

Oh, forget it, I don’t care anymore.

Final Analysis of Heather by Cordia Byers

Stuff happens, and Cordia Byers’ Heather ends as these books always do. It’s happily ever after for Heather and Nicholas.

I suppose I should apologize for spoiling this great piece of romantic literature, but I won’t.

This book was so dull. I couldn’t even get excited about writing a review. This just blew big, giant whale chunks.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.5

Synopsis:

HEATHER… She was a golden-haired beauty who’d never known her parents. Brought up as a foundling with David, the son of a marquis, she learned the manners of a lady. All of which helped her when she was captured one night and sold to a fancy brothel.

Captain Nicholas Guyon, David’s friend, who had long lusted after Heather, rescued her from that notorious palace of pleasure. He planned to make her his mistress. He had not reckoned on falling in love with her. But Heather had no intention of surrendering to the man who once had almost raped her…

A lusty tale of fiery passions and deadly intrigue of men at war and women in love…

HEATHER by CORDIA BYERS
stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stranger In My Arms by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #90
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

There are older romances I enjoy out of pure nostalgia. I know they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, I like them. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings is one of the rare flawless gems that gets better with every reread.

This romance set in France first caught my attention over thirty years ago. I love it as much today as I did back then.

Stranger In My Arms even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now defunct Romantic Times Magazine.

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.

Every character, no matter how minor–be he an innkeeper doting on guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning the deaths and losses caused by the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower–every individual in this novel is imbued with vivid sense of realism and depth.

Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from its whimsical opening:

If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.

The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging.

For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.

The Characters

Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow from Switzerland who is returning to Paris with her exiled relatives. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror. Although her late husband was an abusive beast, she still displays the optimism of youth.

Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a parvenu upstart.

At times, she is an imperfect heroine, too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined, and filled with joy.

Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel–then eventually–a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army, is the kind of hero I adore He’s blond, masculine, and handsome (but not pretty), a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country, and a man of unrelenting honor.

I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me the most.

Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. But, while his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.

The Plot

The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams.

Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night…

If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.

Adam and Charmiane’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France. They struggle to be together as family, politics, war, and personal vendettas take over their lives.

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

Stranger In My Arms is an exquisite treasure of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, sadness, and love. And so much more.

The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences, the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.

There is the brother vs. brother trope, fighting each other for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading. I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that’s one I can appreciate.

And if it’s between twin brothers, even more so. Here, this plot point is executed perfectly, for what we see is not always true.

There are even bodice ripper elements, so be warned if you’re not expecting that in a Harlequin Historical.

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

Yet, he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This man has reason to cry. Adam has no mommy issues, nor a woman who hurt him in the past.

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

What torments him is the awfulness of war: the meaningless deaths of his compatriots; the frozen and rotting flesh of his fellow soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow; the depths of depravity; and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for the loss of his soul.

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

As said, unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate.

Most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England. Rather they take place in during the Medieval Era or Renaissance. Or they are set in other times in nations like Spain, France, Russia, or the United States.

I enjoy Civil War romances in the American South and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. Those stories are so rare, and when they’re good, they’re excellent.

I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in this genre, and that’s why I read mostly older works.

Louisa Rawlings’ Stranger in My Arms is, for me, the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more on a deep, emotional level.

Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and, in doing so, learn to love each other anew.

This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books, and each one that I have read so far is wonderful. Stolen Spring is another of her fantastic books that I’ve reviewed. Ms. Rawlings, aka Ena Halliday, aka Sylvia Halliday, please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!

There is a sequel to Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.

Although Stranger in My Arms is a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

I adore Adam and Charmiane’s beautiful affirmation of love:

He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. “Now,” he said, “who am I?”

“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out.

“Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

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

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

He was every girl’s romantic dream: the handsome, brooding hero that Charmiane de Viollet had longed for, the man who would sweep her away from the endless tedium of life among the impoverished aristocrats who had lost their fortunes in the shadow of the guillotine. He was Adam Bouchard, Baron Montcalvo, a colonel in the cavalry, a favorite of Emperor Napoleon’s. In one reckless night of passion, Charmiane gave herself to him, body and soul.

But morning’s harsh light can dull even the brightest dream. When the night was over, would Charmiane wake to find …

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
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
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