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Historical Romance Review: The Captain’s Vixen by Wanda Owen

The Captain's Vixen by Wanda Owen
The Captain's Vixen by Wanda Owen
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: French Revolution & Napoleonic Era Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Pirate Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: The Captain’s Vixen by Wanda Owen

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sometimes one can tell when a book is the first an author has written. The stories don’t seem finished, characters arrive and are then written out without rhyme or reason. Such is the case with The Captain’s Vixen the debut by Wanda Owen. This was not a great first book.

The Plot

Part One: Our Hero and Heroine Meet and Fall in Love

France is on the brink of war in 1805. Andre Cartiers, a French resistance fighter, is concerned enough about what is happening in his homeland to send his two daughters, Olivia, 18, and Elise, 16, to England to live with their Aunt Colette.

Taking the girls to England is English sea captain Landon “Lance” Edwards. Lance is also a peer of the realm in England, but he and his father don’t get along, so Lance rarely uses his high-society connections.

Lance and Elise meet on the trip from France to England. They are attracted to each other, and soon after they make love and agree to marry.

Alas, the fact that Elise is stunningly beautiful and Lance is both handsome and a ladies’ man is both a blessing and a curse for the couple.

Almost every man who meets Elise falls in love or lust with her. Sadly, this results in her being raped three times and nearly raped on two other occasions! The first attempted rape occurs at the home of one of Colette’s friends, the Wentworths. Their son, Robert, tries to rape Elise before being beaten severely by Lance who comes upon the act and prevents it. Unfortunately, Lance can’t prevent Elise from being raped by her Uncle, Edwin Herrington.

Part Two: Kidnapped and Separated

The second rape occurs when Elise is kidnapped by the crew of a pirate, Joaquin Ruiz, aka “El Diablo.” One of Ruiz’s crewmen rapes Elise before Ruiz takes Elise under his protection as his unwilling mistress.

Elise was kidnapped as part of Ruiz’s plan to get revenge on Lance for his affair with Ruiz’s wife, Felicia. Ruiz had found Lance and Felicia in bed together. Lance stabbed Ruiz and escaped. Felicia was not so lucky, as Ruiz killed her that night and has been planning his revenge since.

Elise plays along as Ruiz’s mistress to stay alive and get back to Lance. Unfortunately for her, he tells Elise that Lance is dead; obviously not true as he is this book’s hero.

Lance is desperately searching for the two, however, he just misses catching up with them.

Finally, Elise gets the chance to escape Ruiz. Taking her lady’s maid, Lita–whom she adopted into her employ in Havana, Cuba–with her, Elise tries to flee from Havana when the women are set upon by ruffians at the docks. One of them rapes and kills Lita.

The Captain's Vixen by Wanda Owen

Part Three: A New Man for the Heroine?

Elise fairs a little better as she is beaten and nearly raped again before she is rescued by a kind stranger. He is Clint Barron, an American planter and seaman. Barron takes Elise back to his ship, and tends to her, before taking her to his home in New Orleans.

During their travels, Elise and Barron become lovers. Remember, she believes that Lance is dead.

Lance, meanwhile, has tracked Ruiz to New Orleans and eventually kills him. He then makes the acquaintance of a friend of Barron’s, Zach Hart, and his daughter, Susan. Lance and Susan become lovers and they flirt with the possibility of marriage.

That all changes, when Lance attends a party at Barron’s and is shocked to see Elise alive and well. He overhears her talking about her upcoming nuptials with Barron and becomes enraged, leaving the party.

When Elise tries to explain she thought he was dead, Lance–who is seriously drunk at this time–rapes Elise.

Conclusion: They All Live Happily Ever After… Or Do They?

Despite his assault upon her, soon afterward Lance and Elise realize that they love each other. And have their “Happily Ever After”.

Or do they?

There is a sequel to this turkey, called Rapture’s Bounty. So their “Happily Ever After” is going to be delayed a bit.

The Upside

Well, Ms. Owen’s writing can only improve from here. As stated earlier, The Captain’s Vixen was clearly her first book and it shows.

The Downside

From characters appearing and then disappearing to storylines being explored and then summarily dropped, there are multiple problems with The Captain’s Vixen.

The two biggest issues for me are: #1 the endless misogyny and #2 the” hero” Lance rapes Elise and she forgives him! I don’t see why Ms. Owen had to resort to the type of abuse she forced Elise to endure here.

Plus, I have a HUGE problem with the “hero rapes the heroine and she forgives him” part of some romances. This happened far too often in older romance novels.

Sex

There are a few love scenes where Lance DOESN’T rape Elise. They are relatively tame and barely lukewarm as far as sexual heat is concerned.

Violence

There are the aforementioned multiple rapes on Elise, plus a beating. Her maid is also raped and killed.

Lance kills Ruiz. In addition, Lance and Barron have a fistfight over Lance’s violation of Elise. Nothing is described in over-graphic detail, however.

Bottom Line on The Captain’s Vixen

Parts of Wanda Owen’s Zebra bodice-ripper, The Captain’s Vixen, are good. But the rape of Elise by Lance and her forgiveness really turned me off.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
2
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2

Synopsis

Captain Lance Edwards had sailed the seas and obtained women ever since he was a lad, and no woman had ever resisted his masculine magnetism — no one but the luscious, jet-haired Elise. Passionately attracted to the strong-minded beauty, Lance struggled to overcome the resistance. Now he vowed to possess her and win her love, for he was bewitched by . . . The Captain’s Vixen!

The Captain’s Vixen by Wanda Owen

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

book review historical romance
Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 574
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penelope Neri is one of the more versatile authors I’ve read from Kensington’s Zebra imprint. Neri’s first two books were set in England in the 1700s. Her third book was set in 19th-century Hawaii. Her fourth, Hearts Enchanted, takes place in Medieval England in the 13th century.

For the most part, the books have worked, some better than others. Hearts Enchanted is one of Penelope Neri’s “better than others.”

The Plot

Hearts Enchanted begins with an introduction to the hero, Brian Fitzwarren, a part-French, part-English, part Welsh Lord. He is gifted by King Edward I with land called Striguil, which is on the border between England and Wales. It is there that Brian meets the heroine, Lady Maegan Ruthven.

Brian actually doesn’t meet Maegan, he spies on her bathing and immediately becomes attracted to her, despite the fact that their people are at war with each other. This comes to a head when Maegan’s father and three brothers are captured making war against an English Lord. King Edward I summons Maegan and gives her an ultimatum. She must marry Brian or her male relatives will be killed. Naturally, Maegan agrees to the marriage, although she hopes to leave Brian eventually.

As their marriage goes on, Maegan and Brian are in lust with each other–they’re clearly sexually attracted to each other–but they don’t want to fall in love, as both have been hurt by lost loves. Maegan’s fiancee died. Brian was betrayed by the woman he previously loved, who married his stepbrother for power and wealth. Maegan and Brian also don’t trust each other because of their ethnic backgrounds and Maegan’s belief that Brian is unfaithful to her. He’s not, by the way.

The woman Maegan believes Brian is having an affair with, Lady Moina, is his cousin. She is trying to help Brian regain his rightful title and lands from his evil stepmother, stepbrother, and faithless ex-fiancee. Eventually, Brian regains his lands, title, and most importantly, the love of Maegan as they realize that they truly do love each other, and that overcomes their initial hatred and mistrust of the other person.

The Upside

Hearts Enchanted is a good book, with lots of chemistry.

The Downside

There are some formulaic parts. Namely the fact that, once again, Ms. Neri puts the heroine in peril when she has to be rescued by the hero. This is something that happens in virtually every one of Ms. Neri’s books. This is rather annoying as her female characters are pretty strong women mentally. Yet they always seem to be dumb enough to get into a perilous situation that they need their men to get them out of.

Sex

Quite a few semi-hot sex scenes, but none approach erotica.

Violence

There are a few violent moments, but none too graphic.

Bottom Line on Hearts Enchanted

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri is a nice book for those who like medieval romance. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

PASSIONS ENFLAMED
The moment Lord Brian Fritzwarren saw the saucy, slender wench bathing in the river he could not staunch his desire. Her fresh, sun-warmed skin beckoned for his touch. Her flawless, seductive face invited him to rain fiery kisses along her delicate curves. That she was his enemy’s daughter no longer mattered. The masterful lord resolved that somehow he would claim the irresistible beauty as his own.

WILLS ENTHRALLED
While she frolicked in the sparkling water, tawny-haired Maegan felt she was being watched… then she met the smoldering gleam in Brian’s smoke gray eyes. Her cheeks flushed with shame—but her blood pounded hotly in her veins as he boldly gazed upon her body. Shivering with fear and delight, Maegan fought what she instinctively knew: she could never let herself love her foe, but their paths would forever be entwined, their lives entangled, their HEARTS ENCHANTED.

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

***

Midnight angel kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review
Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg, Fredericka Ribes
Book Series: Stokehurst #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 373
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Lisa KleypasMidnight Angel is the predecessor to the only one of her novels I’ve been unable to finish, Prince of Dreams. I started Prince of Dreams, not knowing it was a sequel; the Elaine Duillo stepback cover lured me in.

I should have started with this one, which features a Max Ginsburg tip-in illustration, as this is by far the better romance.

The Plot

The story opens with Lady Anastasia Kaptereva. She is in jail, sentenced to hang for a murder she did not commit. Anastasia doesn’t have any recollection of the event.

She flees Russia for exile to England, where under an assumed name, she lands employment as a governess to young Lady Emma Stokehurst.

The hero Luke, Lord Stokehurst, is unique in that he’s disabled, missing a hand, with a hook in its place. He is a widower whose wife died in a fire. And he’s vowed never to love again.

His 12-year-old daughter Emma is in need of care. Emma is the heroine in Prince of Dreams, where she is paired off with Tasia’s annoying brute of a cousin Nikolas Angelovsky. He was such an awful hero; I DNF’d that book. Unthinkable for a Kleypas, but he rubbed me the wrong way. Strange, as he’s not so terrible here in Midnight Angel.

midnight angel lisa kleypas
Midnight Angel, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1995, Max Ginsburg cover art, John De Salvo model

Luke is about 15 years older than Tasia (she’s 18; he’s 34). Luke is “tortured” and domineering, not a thoughtfully sensitive but strong quasi-beta male with a cream-puff interior. The power dynamics may be off-putting to some. I didn’t mind.

When Tasia and Lucas get together, the steam factor is hot. Kleypas writes excellent love scenes, which is why the book was enjoyable.

The plot was a bit of a kitchen-sink affair, as there are many factors thrown in: the Gothic aura, amnesia, murder, a nasty other woman, and lots of drama. Plus, there are evil baddies, a tiger, and some paranormal factors. The supernatural stuff is further explored in Prince of Dreams.

My Opinion

Midnight Angel was good, better than its follow-up, but not anything exceptional. If you’ve read my reviews, you know where I stand on the grieving widowers trope, but it was mostly tolerable here. Mostly.

Some aspects were rushed, making my rating for this book drop a few percentage points. It’s melodramatic and cheesy at times. Then again, I don’t mind cheesy.

I liked this historical overall, but I don’t think it’s for every reader. Fans of Kleypas’ romances written in the 20th century–particularly her Hathaway and Ravenel series–probably will not have a good time as I did with Midnight Angel.

The ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are relatively low for a Kleypas romance, with a considerable number of 1 or 2-star reviews.

That didn’t sway my opinion, as I enjoy Kleypas’ 1990s to early 2000s romances more than her “modern” books.

Final Analysis of Midnight Angel

Historical romance is a broad genre and Lisa Kleypas’ is a rare author with broad genre appeal. Midnight Angel is a solid, if not stellar, romance. Tasia and Lord Stokehurst are an unlikely couple, but their story is full of passion, intrigue, and danger.

Opinions are mixed about this one, so your mileage may vary. As for me, while I won’t be returning to Midnight Angel, I am glad I read it.

3.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis

A noblewoman of frail beauty and exotic mystery fakes her own death to escape the gallows. And now she must flee. In disguise and under a false identity, she finds unexpected sanctuary in the arms of a handsome and arrogant yet gallant British lord—who must defy society to keep her safe . . . and overcome a tragic past to claim her as his own.

MIDNIGHT ANGEL by LISA KLEYPAS
a breath of scandal mason

Historical Romance Review: A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason

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


Historical Romance Review: A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

Not a good sign of things to come.

The Hero and the Set Up

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

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

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

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

The Plot

Julian, the Spy Lord and Lara, the Gypsy Lady

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

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

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

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

A Forced Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

Scandalous Secrets Revealed in A Breath of Scandal

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

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

The Jerky Hero

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

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

Honorable man indeed.

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

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

Final Analysis of A Breath of Scandal

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

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

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

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

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

Plus, the anachronisms were painful to deal with.

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

1.74 Stars

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
hearts-aflame-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hearts Aflame is a notable Johanna Lindsey historical romance for a few reasons.

Back in June 1987, John Le Carre, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Robert Ludlum, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek were on the NY Times Weekly Bestseller list for paperbacks. Also in the top ten? Jude Deveraux’s The Raider and Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame at #3.

Spy thrillers, mysteries, science & women’s fiction were always big hits, but for many years, it was hard to see more than one romance novel numbering near the top. With her 14th book, Lindsey was on a roll, writing blockbuster romance after blockbuster romance.

Readers of this blog and fans of Lindsey might be familiar with Hearts Aflame, as it contains two hallmarks of her books. First (no longer was Robert McGinnis illustrating) was “The Queen of Romance Covers” herself, Elaine Duillo painting the artwork.

Second, this book featured romance supermodel Fabio posing for the clinch. This was one of–if not the–first romance front cover for the Italian-born hunk.

The Background

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey is the sequel to her third book, the bodice ripper Fires of Winter. In it, the beautiful Welsh Lady Brenna finds her life torn asunder when Vikings raid her home.

They kill all the men and take the women captive. Brenna is given as a prize to the Viking chief’s son, Garrick.

After a very rocky beginning, Garrick and Brenna find love together.

The heroine of Hearts Aflame, Kristen, is their daughter. She is as fierce and strong as both her parents.

The Plot

With her many Viking brothers and cousins, young Kristen has always desired an adventure as they claimed to have experienced. In search of action, she stows away on their raiding ship.

The raid is a failure when the Vikings are beaten and taken hostage by the Saxons, led by the arrogant Thane Royce.

Kristen is dressed as a male, and her kinsmen guard her true identity. But soon, the nature of her sex is discovered by Royce. Royce forces her to serve as his personal house slave. He places Kristen in chains when she refuses and finds her will is unbreakable.

From there on, the relationship between Royce and Kristen is a power play of master and slave, captor and captive, man and woman.

Kristen is not a simpering dame, as her actions prove. Although Royce is a powerful leader and tries to master her, it’s she who proves to be the real mistress.

Speaking of mistresses, Royce has one; a rare instance in a Lindsey romance where the hero beds the other woman. But no fear, her simpering nature proves no match for Kristen’s fierce one.

Some evildoers would see Kristen and Royce fall, but Royce shouldn’t worry when Kristen is on his side. She has no qualms about threatening Saxon lords and ladies and can back up her words with fighting skills.

Of course, Kristen and her fellow Vikings are to be avenged by her people, and this leads to a dramatic ending where her parents show up to save them.

Final Analysis of Hearts Aflame

Hearts Aflame is a solid Johanna Lindsey romance, perhaps not in my personal top-tier, but it still was a blast to read.

Kirsten has all the warrior skills of her mother, with her father’s stubborn temper.

Royce is sexy enough, even though Kirsten steals the show. But it’s fun to imagine him looking like Fabio since he was the first Lindsey hero painted by Elaine Duillo.

Fans of Kirsten’s older brother, Selig, will be happy to read his story in Surrender, My Love, the conclusion to Lindsey’s “Haardrad Viking Trilogy.”

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

Synopsis

Kristen Haardrad met the icy fury in her captor’s crystal-green gaze with defiance. She was the prisoner of Royce of Wyndhurst, but his slave she’d never be. This powerful Saxon lord had at last met his match in the Viking beauty – his equal in pride, in strength…and in the fierce, hot hunger of insatiable desire. But Kristen could not know the torment that divided his soul; how he ached to hold her soft, supple body, thirsted for the ringing joy of her laughter – yet hated her for an ancient crime that was not her own.

But her golden loveliness drives him mad with desire, her fiery eyes taunting him, compelling him to claim her. Until, in wordless surrender, they cast aside the shackles of doubt and distrust to unite forever in the searing promise of all-consuming love.

HEARTS AFLAME by JOHANNA LINDSEY

Links

PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: JUNE 7, 1987

List Fiction:

  • 1 A PERFECT SPY, by John le Carre. (Bantam, $4.95.) The tale of a British secret agent and his father, a flamboyant con man.
  • 2 BARRIER ISLAND, by John D. MacDonald. (Fawcett, $4.50.) One man’s effort to thwart a multimillion-dollar land swindle.
  • 3 * HEARTS AFLAME, by Johanna Lindsey. (Avon, $3.95.) A beautiful captive becomes the captor of a handsome thane in the age of the Vikings.
  • 4 ACT OF WILL, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Bantam, $4.95.) Three generations of talented, ambitious women in England and New York.
  • 5 THE GOOD MOTHER, by Sue Miller. (Dell, $4.95.) A woman’s attachment to her daughter becomes a consuming passion.
  • 6 TAMING A SEA-HORSE, by Robert B. Parker. (Dell, $4.50.) Spenser tracks a young woman through the seamy byways of a pleasure empire.
  • 7 THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Del Rey/Ballantine, $4.95.) Mankind’s first encounter with life in a paradisaical world.
  • 8 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, by Robert Ludlum. (Bantam, $4.95.) A plot to seize Hong Kong and bring China into conflict with the West.
  • 9 THE RAIDER, by Jude Deveraux. (Pocket, $3.95.) Rebels, Red Coats, and love in colonial New England.
  • 10 DREAMS OF THE RAVEN, by Carmen Carter. (Pocket, $3.50.) In this Star Trek novel, Captain Kirk faces a nightmarish enemy. 

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,
night fire catherine coulter

Historical Romance Review: Night Fire by Catherine Coulter

book review historical romance
Night Fire by Catherine Coulter
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Steve Assel
Book Series: Night Series #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 388
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Night Fire by Catherine Coulter

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter features one of her few truly nice guy heroes. This romance was a pleasant surprise–despite its dark themes–due to the charming Burke Drummond.

This romance is the first in Coulter’s “Night Trilogy,” which is set in Regency-era England and in the final book, America.

The Plot

In Night Fire, Arielle and Burke had met years prior when she was 15 and he in his twenties. Burke instantly fell in love with Arielle but couldn’t do anything about it as he was called to war against the French.

In the interim, Arielle was forced into marriage with a cruel, elderly lecher.

Burke returns to find Arielle a bitter widow, suffering post-traumatic stress from the abuse she endured. She wants nothing to do with men.

Meanwhile, Burke’s feelings for Arielle still run strong. He wants her and pursues her. When he discovers the horrors of her marriage, Burke changes to a gentler approach.

Thus unfolds a tender, emotional love story where Burke patiently woos Arielle–although he is a randy rascal. Her recovery takes time, and Burke is there to give her genuine support and understanding.

Meanwhile, a wicked villain has his eye on Arielle. Will Burke also be there to save her before it’s too late?

Read Night Fire and find out!

Final Analysis of Night Fire

I’ve read a handful of Catherine Coulter romances and disliked more than half of them. Night Fire was one of her bests due to the wonderful hero, Burke.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the final entry in her “Night Trilogy,” Night Storm, whose arrogantly condescending hale protagonist made me rethink my penchant for blonds. But that’s a review for another day.

Night Fire is a solid read for those who like to see a heroine recover from trauma and be healed by love.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis

ONLY HIS BURNING LOVE COULD SAVE HER.

Trapped into a loveless marriage, Arielle Leslie knew a life of shame and degregation. Even after the death of her brutal husband, she was unable to free herself from the shackles of humiliation. Only Burke Drummond’s love could save her . . . if she let it. But as his passion blazed, his patience wore thin . . . and Arielle risked a future as terrifying as her past.

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter
lion's lady morgan kane

Historical Romance Review: The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood

book review historical romance

The Book

The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood takes us to Regency Era England where we meet two firm-willed yet evenly matched partners in love. One is a lady of mystery from the former colonies raised among the Native people. The other is an English nobleman turned soldier and spy, now retiring from duty.

A disclaimer: I’m not a fan of tropes with nobility involved in espionage, especially during the Napoleonic era. It’s contrived, and spies in a romance don’t do it for me. I was never much into James Bond. So I braced myself to dislike this due to Lyon’s career. However, I was enchanted by the heroine and the chemistry between the main leads.

Plus, there’s not much official espionage, mostly the hero using his sleuthing skills to uncover the enigmatic lady’s past.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Alexander Michael Phillips, The Marquess of Lyonwood, is known to his intimates as Lyon. (What a cheesy, uber-macho name for a British nobleman–oh, it is cheesy! One thing I love about my romances is that they are ripe with the stench of Eau de Fromage.)

Lyon is a spy with an injured leg and a dashing scar. Lyon even looks like a lion (of course he does!) with his tanned skin, a mane of dark gold hair, and mysterious dark amber eyes.

The Lion’s Lady has another disliked trope of mine: the male protagonist vows never to get married again after losing his wife and child in childbirth. At least he’s not wallowing in mourning; he is bitter because his wife was unfaithful. The child was not his; the babe was his brother’s. Thus, he has serious trust issues when it comes to the fairer sex. 

The novel’s prologue starts in 1797 in the Black Hills of America. A Sioux tribe travels on. Among them are two Anglo females: a woman named Merry, who has married into the tribe, and her young daughter, Christina. The people call Christina a lioness for her golden hair and blue eyes, and fierce nature.

The shaman tells his people she is headed to a great destiny. Even though she is not one of their blood, they must take great care of this lioness.

the lions lady by Julie Garwood
The Lion’s Lady, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books

The Plot

After a brief look into Lyon’s tragic background, the story begins. Each chapter begins with excerpts from Christina’s mother’s diary from 1795 to 1796, detailing her life married Christina’s abusive father, Edward.

Christina’s mother escaped her turbulent marriage, although not before stealing a treasure from her husband.

Now Christina returns to her mother’s birth land and takes England by storm. The ton calls her Princess Christina, and she is ever under the watchful eye of her aunt, Countess Patricia. Stories float around as to her “true” identity. Precisely who is this mysterious Princess Christina?

Lyon is at a ball chaperoning his sister when he sets eyes upon the most beautiful woman ever: Christina. He and his friend both appreciate her loveliness and notice her haughty demeanor. They make a bet on who can win her charms first. Then, like Cinderella, this princess makes an early disappearance.

What follows is Lyon’s chase to discover more about this lady of intrigue. The hero in pursuit is smitten from the first, although he won’t admit it. Having been betrayed by love, this wounded Lyon is not seeking marriage, just a diverting affair. Using his young sister’s admiration for Christina as an excuse, he charms his way in and out of The Princess’ social life.

Christina is on a quest to uncover the secret her mother left behind. Then she finds she must marry within weeks to inherit. She decides Lyon will make the perfect husband.

Remember, the lioness is the great hunter, not the lion!

Mysteries unfold, and danger lurks as the two get closer to each other and the truth.

My Opinion

Christina was a darling heroine on a quest to right past wrongs. In someone else’s hands, one could have accused her of being “annoyingly spunky.” Instead, Garwood wrote her as a girl beyond her years in wisdom.

Lyon was authoritative, not overbearingly so, and equally fascinating as his mate.

“Your eyes have turned as black as a Crow’s,” she blurted out.

He didn’t even blink over her bizarre comment. “Not this time, Christina,” he said in a furious whisper. “Compliments won’t get me off balance again, my little temptress. I swear to God, if you ever again dismiss me so casually, I’m going to––”

“Oh, it wasn’t a compliment,” Christina interrupted, letting him see her irritation. “How presumptuous of you to think it was. The Crow is our enemy.”

the lion's lady julie garwood
The Lion’s Lady, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books, 2010

Final Analysis of The Lion’s Lady

The Lion’s Lady is a well-crafted, humorous adventure that fans of sensual period romances should appreciate on a pure enjoyment level. Don’t look for the reinvention of the wheel. This is just a solid love story between two great leads.

One quibble I had with The Lion’s Lady. It’s full of side characters you know are getting their own stories. I hate sequel baiting. This romance was written before every book was part of a series. Still, I wasn’t a fan.

Also annoying was that Christina’s evil aunt didn’t get her full just desserts. Garwood tends to the sweet side. I don’t know if it’s in her to create a genuinely vicious ending that would satisfy my bloodthirstiness.

Despite that, there’s much to enjoy here. I dithered over, giving this Regency romance 4 stars or 4-and-a-half. Either way, you slice it, it’s one I’ll look back on fondly.

4.15 Stars

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

Synopsis

1810. She has taken London society by storm. Christina Bennett… the ravishing beauty with the mysterious past. Rumor whispers she is a princess from a far-off kingdom on the continent. But only she holds the secret –until the night Lord Alexander Michael Phillips, Marquis of Lyonwood, steals a searching, sensuous kiss. A proud, arrogant nobleman with a pirate’s passions, he tastes the wild fire smoldering beneath Christina’s cool charm and swears to possess her before he is done…

But Lyon soon discovers that his dream of conquest will not be easily satisfied. The feisty and defiant Christina has no fear of him–or of any other man. She alone is master of her heart, mistress of her fortune. And though Lyon’s hungry caresses dizzy her senses though his fierce embrace arouses her desire… she will not surrender to his love. For if she does, she must also forsake at last her precious secret–and her promised destiny!

THE LION’S LADY by JULIE GARWOOD
trAITOR'S KISS TERRI VALENTINE

Historical Romance Review: Traitor’s Kiss by Terri Valentine

historical romance review
Traitor's Kiss by Terri Valentine
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: George A . Bush
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 415
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Traitor’s Kiss by Terri Valentine

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Traitor’s Kiss, a standalone by historical romance Terri Valentine. The plot spans over seven years, from 1784 to 1791.

The Characters and the Set-Up

In the Bahamas, Calypso Collingsworth, a young gentlewoman, is caught by her evil older brother, Evan reading–Gasp! Shudder!–a romance novel. Evan blackmails Calypso into working as a serving wench at a tavern to allow him to have a romantic assignation with the waitress Calypso is to replace for the night.

While at the tavern, Calypso is told to “warm the bed” of the patron in the room. That patron is Lord Rhys Winghusrt, Earl of Flint. Calypso discovers that she and Rhys have differing views of what “warming the bed” means, and they end up having sex.

Nine months later, Calypso is pregnant and on the verge of giving birth to the baby conceived during her encounter with Rhys. At the same time, Calypso and Evan’s mother, Cathleen is also giving birth. Sadly, Cathleen’s baby is stillborn. In rage and anger, Cathleen’s husband and Calypso and Evan’s father, Lord John Collingsworth, hatches a cruel plan. He tells Calypso that her son–who was born alive–is dead and claims the boy as his and Cathleen’s son.

The Plot

The Plot Part 1

Fast forward six years. John tries to push Calypso into marriage and invites four men to his estate as potential husbands for her. Among the men is Rhys, who at that time doesn’t recognize Calypso. (He will remember later). In part because of this, Calypso tries to get revenge on Rhys. this backfires, spectacularly and she is arrested and accused of being a spy.

Rhys rescues her and in the process discovers that he is Tristan’s father. After this, Rhys takes Calypso and Tristan to Philadelphia in America where he plans to marry her.

Plus, he must stop a plot that, if not halted, could change the course of American history. For although Rhys was born in the U.K.–Wales to be exact–and is a peer of the realm, he is, by choice and heart, an American.

In Philadelphia, Calypso and Rhys marry. However, Rhys soon takes Tristan and goes to Wales, in part to introduce Tristan to his heritage. Rhys is also angered at Calypso’s intransigence over acknowledging Tristan’s maternal parentage.

The Plot Part 2

Upon hearing where they’ve gone, Calypso arranges a trip to Wales. Big mistake, as the ship’s captain she hired plans to sell her to an African harem. Calypso escapes by telling the captain that Rhys will pay a hefty ransom for her. He doesn’t have to, as the evil captain is arrested once they reach England.

Calypso, Rhys, and Tristan reunite, and she discovers who is the mastermind of the evil plot mentioned above.

Calypso and Rhys foil the plot. However, this comes at a heavy cost to both of them.

In the end, Rhys gives up his title to stay in America with Calypso and Tristan, and the family has their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Calypso and Rhys are both fairly strong characters. Calypso has to deal with emotional abuse from all the males in her life, including Rhys. Even so, she manages to come out okay.

I didn’t like Rhys at first–he was a bit of an unfeeling jerk–but grew to like him more as the book went on. I also liked that once he found out that Tristan was his son, he loved him immediately. He didn’t use him as a pawn in his relationship with Calypso much, although that does happen to an extent.

Downside

There is a noticeable lack of depth to Calypso and Rhys. Although Ms. Valentine made me believe that Calypso and Rhys loved each other, there wasn’t a lot of hot passion between them. The ending of the book could have been more exciting.

Sex

The love scenes between Calypso and Rhys are fairly tame.

Heat level: pretty lukewarm.

Violence

Two characters are killed, neither completely on-screen. No graphic violence.

Bottom Line on Traitor’s Kiss

Terri Valentine’s Zebra romance Traitor’s Kiss is a good book. It simply lacks the passion and juice to be a great book.

3 stars


Synopsis:

Loyal To His Lust
There was only one way Rhys Winghurst knew of to relieve the pressure of his latest undercover assignment a romp in the hay with a beautiful lady. The red-blooded male was impressed when the innkeeper sent up the voluptuous light skirt, but when he crushed her lips and fondled her curves, his passion was unexpectedly ignited as never before! The skillful captain showed the young wench the myriad ways of pleasure and then showed her the door. But Rhys never figured that the memories of rapture would haunt him nor that he’d need that one incredible woman by his side to successfully fulfill his mission.

True To Her Heart
Spirited Calypso Collingworth didn’t expect more than an aching back and injured pride during her one-night masquerade as a tavern’s serving girl. But when she was sent to “serve” the Captain in Room Nine, the innocent redhead never thought her work included unmentionable intimacies…nor that the gentleman would be the tall, dark hero of her dreams! Calypso struggled with the handsome stranger even as her silken flesh begged for his touch. Then when she suffered his callous disregard only moments after such glorious ecstasy, the hot-tempered miss vowed she’d wreak vengeance on the humiliating cad for his insincere whispers and his Traitor’s Kiss

TRAITOR’S KISS by TERRI VALENTINE
nobility ranch ennis

Historical Romance Review: Nobility Ranch (aka To Love a Lady) by Cynthia Stirling

Synopsis:

An English lady runs away to Texas, in pursuit of a groom.

Lady Cecily Thorndale has lived her whole life preparing for her future role as wife to the Earl of Devonshire. But when the future Earl, Charles Worthington, goes to Texas to oversee land the family has purchased – and stays there – Cecily decides the only thing to do is to track him down. Arriving in Texas with her lady’s maid and all the determination she can muster, Cecily sets out to conquer both the new world and her reluctant fiancé. She captivates her new neighbors and shows Charles that the one thing that’s been missing from his adventurous life is her. Originally published in 2000 under the title Nobility Ranch, To Love a Lady is the first volume in the Titled Texans series about a family of English nobility who set out to tame the American west. With humor, romance and authentic historical detail, To Love a Lady takes readers on a romantic journey to 1880s Texas.

NOBILITY RANCH

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Nobility Ranch (e-book title To Love a Lady), book #1 of 3 in the “Titled Texans” series from July 2000 by Cynthia Sterling.

The Plot

The book takes place in Fairweather, Texas, circa 1882. Lady Cecily Anne Thorndale, the heroine of the book, has come to Texas to find her fiance’, Charles Edward Worthington, Lord Silsbee, the hero of the book, and get him to marry her. The thing is, Charles came to Texas to get away from marrying Cecily in England. (Charles came to Texas to manage a ranch his father and a business syndicate own).

Cecily’s arrival in Texas is memorable, as she is arrested for being a prostitute (she’s not, but she was in the company of three of them when arrested). Charles bails her out and takes her-and the three prostitutes-to his ranch, the Double Crown, also known as Nobility Ranch. Despite taking her to his home, Charles is not happy that Cecily is in Texas and spends a large portion of the book trying to get her to return to England. As the book goes on, Charles’ reasons for his behavior are revealed. Later, Cecily and Charles get a little push to realize that they truly do love each other.

Later, Charles’ younger brother, Reg, arrives. Like Charles, Reg has been sent to Texas to manage another ranch. By doing this, however, the Silsbee brothers acquire an enemy in local sheriff John Grady, who owned the ranch Reg will now be managing. (Charles has been at odds with Grady since the beginning of the book). Charles and Grady call a truce by the end of the book.

In the end, Charles is called to England by his father, who is ill. Cecily goes with him. On the way, they marry. Will their Happily Ever After be in England or Texas? You’ll have to read the series to find out!

Upside

Ms. Sterling has an easy, flowing writing style that is both complex and easy to understand. She immediately brought me into her story of Nobility Ranch, making me feel like I was in Fairweather, Texas, circa 1882, and watching her characters’ lives rather than reading words on a screen on my Kindle.

Cecily and Charles are both engaging, well-developed characters, and Ms. Sterling chronicles their relationship in a very linear way that creates and holds interest. She also introduces multiple other relationships and supporting characters who will appear in the later books in the series.

I also like the theme running through the series: when society has expectations for us, our families have expectations for us, and we have expectations for ourselves, which path do we take? The heroes and heroines of the “Titled Texans” series will answer those questions, in ways that may surprise readers, and even the characters themselves.

Downside

Nothing really that I can find.

Sex

One love scene between Cecily and Charles, that is fairly good, but not terribly erotic.

Violence

No “on-screen” violence, but one off-screen act of violence, which is not graphic.

Bottom Line

Ms. Sterling gets her “Titled Texans” series off to a great start with Nobility Ranch/To Love a Lady. It’s not a 5-star book, but it is a very good one.

4.44 star

the silver devil teresa denys

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

historical romance review
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Renaissance Era Romance
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.

A Legendary Romance

Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.

The Silver Devil is out-of-print, a hard paperback to find. And if you do, it will cost you quite a penny! On e-bay, the only one I currently see available costs $159. That’s relatively cheap compared to the other listings that are upwards of a thousand dollars.

I purchased my edition eleven years ago for $12. At the time, I thought that was too much!

There’s a good reason this book is highly prized.

The Silver Devil captivated me with its stunning characterization and intense, passionate tone. The enclosed world of 380 pages (my Futura Publications Ltd/Troubador version) made me truly believe that in the imaginary Dukedom of Cabria, there lived a proud Duke so handsome and omnipotent that with a snap of his fingers, he was swiftly provided with whatever he desired.

Including one lovely peasant girl named Felicia.

the silver devil
The Silver Devil, Troubador Books, UK edition

The Set-Up

“He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.”

THE SILVER DEVIL

It is a hot summer in the year 1604 in Fidena, a fictional town in the fictional province of Cabria, set just north of Naples. Felicia Guardi is the sister of an innkeeper who’s just gotten married. Her sister-in-law, Celia, is a greedy and harsh taskmistress. Felicia’s half-brother, Antonio, is not much better, as he bears no love for the girl with whom he only shares a mother.

For Felicia was not the child of their mother’s husband. Her actual father spent one brief night at the inn, sharing a fleeting moment of passion with her mamma.

Adding to the gothic allure of this novel is the narration. The story is told from Felicia’s first-person perspective, appropriate for such a macabre tale of lust and love. She describes the overwhelming heat and decay of Fidena during a hot summer when the plague that runs through town.

Like a princess out of a fairy tale, Felicia is forced to slave away her days until a handsome prince falls in love with her and takes her to his castle home.

The Villainous Hero: The Silver Devil

One day Felicia stands by the window and is seen by Duke Domenico, a white-blond-haired, black-eyed sensualist of a tyrant. His desire for her is powerful and instantaneous. The Duke demands to have her, and with a snap of his fingers, she is made his.

Felicia does not want to go willingly. Yet what is she, an illegitimate peasant, to do? In vain, she resists. Felicia’s brother and sister-in-law drug her to surrender to the devil’s demands.

Although Felicia is attracted to this magnetic demi-god, she displays a strong will, refusing his seduction despite how futile.

Domenico treats her as a jealously-guarded treasure. Felicia’s innate strength demands no less than a queen’s respect.

The Story

Domenico’s ardor for Felicia becomes a raging obsession. He is monstrous in his possessiveness. In one unforgettable scene, Felicia smiles at a handsome youth. Enraged, Domenico has the boy brutally tortured to death.

As they travel through the hot, dusty lands, a retinue of servants and sycophants escort Domenico and Felicia. Former mistresses accompany Domenico, vying fruitlessly for his attention. He humiliates them callously when they seek his favor.

The Silver Devil was written in 1978 and, for its time, took a daring risk with the lead male character. The hero is/was bisexual. Domenico had a past affair with Pierro, a childhood friend who now is one of his courtiers. He only has disdain for Pierro, who pathetically apes Domenico’s looks and style.

Once Domenico’s affection dies out, only contempt remains. Domenico’s eyes and heart belong to his beloved Felicia alone.

I won’t spoil what evil deeds he has in store for his hangers-on. Suffice it enough to say he does his admirers wrong. He is ruthless in his brutality.

A Difficult to Believe HEA

As a result, it’s no surprise when the people turn against Domenico.

The beautiful Prince falls from grace. Felicia alone stands by his side, aiding him in his quest to regain power. Domenico is humbled several times over while Felicia remains at his side. Felicia proves she is more than an object of desire. She has grit and fortitude where others fail. With her by his side, Domenica will rise to power once more.

The novel culminates with Domenico declaring his love in a surprisingly vulnerable demonstration of emotion.

“I knew that love would not turn the silver devil into an angel. He would remain what he was–subtle yet childish, unfeeling yet passionate, lost irretrievably to everything but his own desire. But he loved me–and I loved him, now and forever.

THE SILVER DEVIL

My Opinion

The writing in The Silver Devil is gripping. However, it’s not a sweet tale that leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Reading this like a simple love story doesn’t work. It’s too dark, too gothic, and too gruesome for me to call it one.

It is a fascinating character study of an unhinged, narcissistic megalomaniac and his female object of jealous obsession.

I cannot give this book five stars because it fails on one singular level. The Silver Devil is fabulous historical fiction. It’s a monumental piece of psychological analysis. But is it a romance? Only if I engage in a suspension of all disbelief.

Final Analysis of The Silver Devil

SPOILER ⚠

Although Domenico is the absolute ruler of a wealthy Duchy, he is not a typical “Alpha male.” Alphas are devoted to their mates, but they are also leaders who command respect. Domenico struggles spectacularly at this. His Dukedom is overtaken, and he must maneuver his way back into power. This is done not by coalescing allies who will eagerly follow his lead. He must attain this through deception, posing as a lowly peasant.

He is feared by others but not loved. Contrary to Machiavelli’s perspective, fear alone is not enough to keep Domenico secure.

In the last pages of The Silver Devil, Felicia gives birth to a son, the heir to Cabria. The novel concludes on a gloriously positive note.

Even so, I had doubts about the happy finale. Domenico is a mad despot. I could see the inhabitants of Cabria taking him out, Mussolini-style. Lord knows what would happen to Felicia and their son! My imagination goes wild, and it’s never a good end.

For that, it’s best to close the book and leave this story in its final moment of ultimate bliss.

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

Post Script: Read The Silver Devil For Free Online

I don’t usually post links for free books on the internet unless it’s to borrow from Open Library. However, the author has been deceased for more than thirty years, with no heirs. In light of that, I have linked to several sources where you can read the free PDF or internet version of The Silver Devil at no cost.


Synopsis

He was cold. He was cruel. A ruthless sensualist riding headlong to hell. He was the Silver Devil – Domenico, Duke of Cabria.

Felicia was the illegitimate sister of a tavern-keeper. She felt nothing but terror when they told her that she had been chosen as the Duke’s next mistress, and when they took her, decked in silks and jewels to the Silver Devil’s bed…

THE SILVER DEVIL BY TERESA DENYS
Dark Before the Rising Sun

Historical Romance Review: Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain

Synopsis:

A LADY’S PLIGHT
Lady Rhea Claire Dominick, fair and flawlessly beautiful daughter of a Duke, was stolen from her father’s house — and shipped to the Colonies as a slave.

A CAPTAIN’S DARING
Dante Leighton, who squandered a Marquis’ inheritance in his dissolute youth, pursued his fortune at sea — and found his destiny in the amethyst eyes of a fascinating woman.

A STORM OF DESIRE
They sailed the West Indian isles, discovering fabulous riches… and the raptures of a love more precious than treasure. On a secluded shore, in an idyll apart from the world, they surrendered themselves to ecstasy. But on returning to England, their joy was beset by a tempest of scandal, spite and murderous peril — which was the end of their happiness, or the dark before the radiance of their love…. 

DARK BEFORE THE RISING SUN by LAURIE McBAIN

SNOOZE ALERT ⚠

Great Title, Beautiful Cover, Too Bad About the Book

Dark Before the Rising Sun is the last installment in Laurie McBain‘s trilogy that began with Moonstruck Madness. This is a direct continuation of that book’s sequel, Chance the Winds of Fortune. I am breaking my rule for reviewing books that I have didn’t fully read, as I made it fairly far into this book and then skimmed to the end. Yes, it was that bad.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been combined with the first book, and halved by length.

The Plot

As I said in my review of Chance the Winds of Fortune, the second and third books combine for over 1000 pages. In the previous installment, the pride and joy of the Dominic family, the eldest daughter Rhea Claire was kidnapped. Events led her to be an unwilling passenger on a ship sailing the Caribbean, captained by Dante Leighton, former English Marquis turned pirate. Rhea charmed the pants off of the ship’s men, metaphorically speaking for the crew, but literally speaking of Captain Dante. Rhea and Dante found treasure and true love.

Now the pair have returned to England so Dante can regain his title as the Marquis of Jacobi, and his beloved, Rhea Claire, daughter of Moonstruck Madness‘ Sabrina and Lucien, can let her parents know she’s alive and well.

After reading the soporific precursor to this book, I found myself looking at another 500 pages to complete their stupid, boring love story. Why? I don’t know. What was the point? Rhea’s dad doesn’t like Dominic. Society still looks down at Dante. Rhea and Dominic are united in their love for one another as they head to Dante’s estate of Merdraco to re-establish his place as the rightful Marquis. There’s a nasty villain who wants to destroy Dante.

There’s Rhea acting cute as always: “Let’s meet my great family and they’ll help get your titles and estates restored now that you’re not a pirate anymore. I love you, darling. Aren’t we so wonderfully dull?”

And Dante reveals his dirty little secret: “Years ago, I once saw your mother at a party when I was a young man and had a crush on her.” That’s like a .05 on a scale of 1-100 for old-school romance craziness!

Final Analysis of Dark Before the Rising Sun

I suppose to really enjoy this book, you had to love the prior novel, and I didn’t. So I was destined to hate this one.

Dark Before the Rising Sun has a largely positive consensus in reviews I’ve seen online. I guess most people who read this far into the trilogy, do genuinely love it. Not me, the eternal contrarian.

I keep these books only for the covers, but as far as re-reading them, life’s too short!

1.5 Stars

Secret Fire

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 416
Format: Audiobook
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

Secret Fire was the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read. It cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.

The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stories I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.

The Plot

Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.

Meanwhile, Lady Katherine St. John, the eldest daughter of an Earl, is enraged to find that her sister has decided to run off and elope. Although Katherine has a father and brother, it’s upon her dainty shoulders that familial responsibilities lie. She concocts a plan to exchange garments with a maid and search the London streets for her sister.

As she’s walking about, Dimitri’s carriage is stuck in traffic, and he happens to see Katherine. Although she’s short and rather plain with dull brown hair, there’s something about her that appeals to Dimitri. A prince who’s gotten anything and everything he’s ever wanted with a snap of his fingers, Dimitri sends a servant off to procure the woman for a night of passion. Katherine dismisses the man, but he won’t take no for an answer. Before Katherine knows what’s happening, she’s kidnapped and finds herself trapped in strange quarters. Her adamant refusals prompt Dimitri’s servant to ply her with”Spanish Fly” to make her willing for the prince’s touch.

When Dimitri finds out what’s been done, he’s disgusted at first. He was just looking for a quick tryst, not a sex marathon. Dimitri figures he’ll have to let his men have a go with her, as Spanish Fly makes a woman insatiable. Then he enters the room, and those thoughts go out the window. For while Katherine might not be the most beautiful woman in the world, she certainly is one of the most sensual visions he’s ever witnessed, naked on the bed and writhing in desire.

And so begins Secret Fire, with a night of pure ecstasy for both Katherine and Dimitri.

The Prince in Pursuit

However, the next day Katherine is back to her old self and threatens Dimitri’s servants with arrest, as she is the daughter of an Earl. No one believes her, of course. What would an Earl’s daughter have been doing roaming the London docks alone and wearing the clothes of a servant? Still, to prevent any scandal, his servant has the brilliant idea of locking Katherine in a chest and taking her with them to Russia.

When Katherine finds herself at sea, she demands to be returned. Dimitri had not expected to find her aboard the ship but is pleased to see her. Despite his hundreds of past amours, their night together was one of the best in memory, and the lady had been a virgin, to boot!

Dimitri pursues Katherine with an ardor he hadn’t imagined possible. Of course, Katherine rebuffs him at every turn. She’s no common trull but a lady deserving of respect. Dimitri ignores Katherine’s claims of nobility, mostly because he wants to believe that his Katya can be easily had. He knows he has to marry a noble Russian woman to produce an heir for his line, but Katya can be his mistress in the meantime.

Over the seas and rivers, through Europe, and into Russia, Dimitri tries what he can to seduce her back into his arms.

But Katherine has a will made of steel. Even though she wants him just as much as he wants her.

[He] wanted her. Incredible fantasy. This fairy-tale prince, this golden god wanted her. Her. It boggled the mind. It defied reason. And she said no. Stupid ninny!

SECRET FIRE

Final Analysis of Secret Fire

I love Katherine. Like Georgina Anderson from Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue, she has a habit of talking to herself, a trait I share, to my husband’s annoyance. Katherine’s fiercely proud, stubborn, and resilient. She’s not my favorite Lindsey heroine, but she is up there with the best. One of my favorite scenes is after Dimitri’s aunt decides to discipline Katherine, and Dimitri’s horrified reaction to it all, combined with Katherine’s stiff-upper-lip reserve.

Dimitri is as equally stubborn and proud as Katherine. But nowhere near as brilliant. That’s ok. His charm and godlike looks make up for it!

This is another of Lindsey’s excellent romances that I’ve re-read many times. Secret Fire is an absolute wonder, the hero, the heroine, the plot, the writing, all of it.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

He’d caught only a glimpse of her from the window of his carriage, but the young prince knew he had to have her. Within minutes, Lady Katherine St. John was dragged from the London street and carried off to a sumptuous town house — for the pleasure of her royal admirer…

From the tempestuous passion of their first encounter, across stormy seas, to the golden splendor of palaces in Moscow, she was his prisoner — obsessed with rage toward her captor even as an all-consuming need made her his slave. Yet theirs was a fervor beyond her understanding, carrying them irrevocably toward final surrender to the power of undeniable love.

Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
hearts of fire gulbronson

Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #3
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

CONTENT & SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills is a great medieval romance that fell a bit short of being flawless.

This book is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Mills’ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel, was.

A Fitting Sequel to a Masterpiece Romance

Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux.

Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.

In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book, Richard could have been a villain. In this story, he’s the hero, and a wonderful one at that. His multi-faceted personality makes Richard almost as intriguing as his grandfather.

Forbidden Love

Gilliane de Lacey is orphaned, and her brother is dead. When Richard’s forces surround Gillaine’s home, she thinks it’s a siege and does what she can to defend her fortress home. To her shock, it is not an enemy but a friend of her brother who has arrived. An enraged Richard is prepared to butt heads with the fool who ordered the attack. Then he finds himself confronted with the beautiful Gilliane. His world is torn asunder.

Richard is from a wealthy, powerful family. Although he bristles under his father’s authority, he is duty-bound to wed a noblewoman with whom his father has arranged a marriage. Gilliane, as the mere sister to a simple knight, is part of the vassal class. Despite their obstacles, Gilliane and Richard are drawn together and cannot deny their love.

The Few Flaws

The forbidden romance between Richard and Gilliane de Lacey is stellar… When they’re together, that is.

I would have given this book 5 stars if not for the long separation when the heroine is married to some beast of a man who rapes and abuses her. It added nothing to the story. I can see that Mills was trying to parallel Lady of Fire with this plot, as in that tale, the heroine was captured and violated by the villain.

But it doesn’t work here, as Robert Bellesme was such an integral part of Lady of Fire. Meanwhile, the abusive other man is relatively unimportant to the overall picture. The long section when Gilliane was paired off with him seemed like filler for this 431-paged book.

Final Analysis of Hearts of Fire

The moments when Hearts of Fire shines are when Richard is around. He is Bellesme, with none of the baby-killing, mother-fucking, or father-killing baggage.

I loved Bellesme in Lady of Fire. Despite his thoroughly wicked behavior, he was complex and charismatic. I wished Robert could have had a bit of happiness and love.

Through his grandson Richard and Richard’s epic romance with a woman beneath his class, this achievement is fulfilled. Anita Mills is such a riveting author, I can’t wait to finish this series.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis

Gilliane de Lacey’s pride is as fiery as her hair. In the face of a command from the King of England himself, she refused to wed a lord she despises. The one man she does want, Richard of Rivaux, is honor-bound to wed another, even though his passion for her has become a burning need.
 
Defying death to rescue Gilliane from the royal wrath, Richard draws his love into the perilous swirl of conflict between England and Normandy. Against this dramatic backdrop, Gilliane and Richard know that nothing will ever stop them from risking it all for love, and giving all to desire.

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
speak only love deana james

Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James

historical romance review
Speak Only Love by Deana James
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Regency Duo #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James

The Book

Speak Only Love is yet another Deana James treat. This Zebra romance takes us to Regency Era England and the story of tumultuous love between two uniquely original characters.

The Characters and Plot

Vivian Marleigh is a mute heiress who cannot speak ever since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. She is forced into marriage with a young, hard-drinking viscount, Piers Larne. The marriage was arranged by the viscounts’ wicked father, the Earl.

Piers is not happy about this union, but what can he do? He feels powerless in his life, with no agency. His daddy pulls the strings, and like a puppet, Piers must dance to his control.

Piers is a dissolute mess, spending most of his time drinking and recovering from gunshot wounds or the many injuries he receives. For besides being the wastrel son of a nobleman, our hero is also a smuggler.

Vivian doesn’t speak a word in the book, yet the love story unfolds and the two pawns in an evil man’s game soon form an intense bond that goes beyond words.

The heroines in James’ book always have a delicate sense of strength, a fortitude that makes them mightier than the hero in many ways. Vivian is no different, her persona grows into one with a powerful voice, even though she cannot physically speak.

speak only love deana james
Speak Only Love, Deana James, Zebra, cover artist unknown

Another Great Romance by Deana James

Though at first both parties in Speak Only Love are wary of each other, neither of them wanting to be part of this unlikely union, slowly they begin to understand one another. Without words, together Piers and Vivian form an unexpected bond.

They face many harrowing experiences, as Piers’ smuggling activities catch up with him. Vivian, who doesn’t have a physical voice, is an amazing, resilient character. With her abiding strength, Piers can face whatever challenges lie ahead.

Final Analysis of Speak Only Love

Speak Only Love might not be Deana James’ best novel I’ve read so far, but it certainly was a compelling read. I do prefer Deana James’ western and medieval romances to her Regency & Victorian Era novels. Even so, she has yet to disappoint me in any of her books.

I really appreciated the way James wrote her heroines. They go through hell and back but always retain their dignity. Good stuff.

3.62


Synopsis

passions treasure

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes) by Betina Krahn

betina krahn historical romance
Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes) by Betina Krahn
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Sharon Spiak
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Colonial Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes) by Betina Krahn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Passion’s Treasure by Betina Krahn, a standalone Zebra Heartfire romance from March 1989. More recently, the novel was republished and retitled Just Say Yes.

The Plot

Part One

Passion’s Treasure begins in the town of Culpepper, Maryland Colony, 1748. We meet Treasure Barrett, one of 10 children born to Aniss and Buck Barrett. Treasure is an intelligent, precocious child. The townspeople are encouraged to allow those qualities free rein. As the book begins, Treasure, age 9, learns about “sport.”

Fast forward nearly 9 years.

A sad pall has come over Culpepper. The town’s most prominent citizen, Squire Darcy Renville, has passed away. His estranged son, Sterling Renville, the book’s hero arrives from England and demands that the villagers–who are all in hock to Squire Darcy in one way or another–pay back their debts. Otherwise, he will seize their property and make them all homeless. He will then return to his home in England.

The town turns to Treasure, the town thinker, now nearly 18, for help.

Treasure comes up with a plan to get under Sterling’s skin and make his time in Culpepper miserable. The plan succeeds quite well. There is an unplanned side effect: he becomes interested in her, and she in him.

Shocked and dismayed to discover their “thinker” is a woman like any other, the townspeople scheme to get Treasure and Sterling married.

just say yes
Just Say Yes, Betina Krahn, Zebra, 2002 Reissue Edition

Part Two

The marriage takes place, and the wedding night is great. But the next morning isn’t, as Sterling discovers he’s been tricked into the marriage. (He erroneously blames Treasure).

He wants an annulment, but since their marriage was consummated, that won’t happen. Sterling then takes Treasure away from Culpepper, taking her to England with him.

On the trip and during their time in England, Treasure and Sterling’s relationship takes on its primary form. When they are making love, they are connected; when they’re not, there is a canyon between them, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

When they arrive in England, Treasure and Sterling’s marriage continues down its rocky road. However, their relationship improves once Sterling realizes she loves him and he loves her. He starts working on accepting her for who she is.

There is also a “B” storyline involving members of Sterling’s family, his best friend, and a business deal he is involved in which reaches the highest levels of the British government.

In the end of Passion’s Treasure, Treasure and Sterling return to the colonies, have five children in the next 1tenyears, and enjoy their Happily Ever After.

The ache driving through her was terrible. Now she knew the awful truth of it. She could love these books with all the learning and wisdom they represented with everything that was in her, but they would never love her back. She needed to be held just now, and only a pair of human arms that moved at the impulse of a human heart could provide that. There were some needs that knowledge, however grand, however necessary, could never fill.

Upside

In my reading experience–which encompasses many years and thousands of books–it is very rare to see a romance novel where the heroine’s beauty is somewhat de-emphasized. Although Treasure certainly checks off the romance novel heroine boxes for beauty, it’s her capabilities that are emphasized. Treasure’s skills and knowledge as a thinker are the primary focus of the book’s first half. She is a smart, delightful character who is well-written.

Downside

I didn’t like Sterling overall, but it’s more complicated than it sounds.

During the first two-thirds of the book, Sterling is an obnoxious bastard. He is arrogant, condescending, egotistical, and elitist. He views the citizens of Culpepper as “colonial bumpkins.” Sterling calls Treasure “that colonial chit” and is shocked–shocked, I tell you!–to discover that she won’t just willingly lie down and spread her legs for him. Doesn’t she know who he is?!

In the last third of Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes), Ms. Krahn informs readers why Sterling acts the way he does. Without giving too much away, it has to do with his relationship with his father, the pressures of his life, and his personal value system.

Knowing these things, however, does not excuse or justify his bad behavior. When Sterling realizes he loves Treasure, and she loves him, he makes efforts to change his actions. These efforts are somewhat successful.

Sex

Multiple love scenes in the book, but none reach any particular level of heat or romanticism.

Violence

A person Treasure believes to be a friend tries to rape her; Sterling prevents the attack from taking place. Sterling is also involved in two fistfights. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Passion’s Treasure/ Just Say Yes

I vacillated a bit on how to rate Betina Krahns’ Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes).

Does one-third of good behavior override two-thirds of bad behavior? That is an individual decision for those who read this book.

For me, it doesn’t completely. Sometimes, I felt this was a 2-star book, other times a 4-star read.

In the end, if using a 1-10 scale, I would give Passion’s Treasure a 6, and using a 1 to 5-star scale, a solid three stars.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3

Synopsis

PRICELESS LESSONS

Violet-eyed Treasure Barrett had a passion for learning. Everyone in the village of Culpepper knew the best way to solve a problem was to ask Treasure-she was a thinker. So when the late squire’s son demanded that the impoverished villagers pay back their longstanding loans, it fell to Treasure to deal with him. But the arrogant, handsome Sterling Renville was not a man to be reasoned with…or ignored. Even as he infuriated her with insulting insinuations, he confused her with calculating caresses. And Treasure soon realized that her thirst for knowledge had not prepared her for the hungers of desire!

PRECIOUS ECSTASY

Sterling Renville had come to the backwoods village to claim his inheritance and claim it he would. No colonial chit was going to convince him to return to Philadelphia with nothing but debts to show for his efforts. If the beautiful Miss Barrett wanted a battle, he’d be happy to oblige. But while she would fight with logic, he had more enjoyable weapons in mind. He’d disarm her with heated kisses, overwhelm her with astounding sensations, and win her surrender with a blaze of ecstasy that would brand her forever as Passion’s Treasure.

Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes) by Betina Krahn
Moonstruck madness

Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

historical romance review
Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Moonstruck Madness is old school historical romance in an oh-so-perfect way. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, best book.

The Characters

Moonstruck Madness begins as the heroine, Lady Sabrina Verrick, watches on as the Scots lose at the bloody Battle of Culloden Moor.

The eldest daughter of a deceased Scotswoman and an itinerant English Marquess, she and her family are without resources. As she’s responsible for her two younger siblings, she packs her family off to England to reside in their absent father’s run-down estate.

Her father is more interested in his young Italian bride than being responsible for his children. It’s up to Sabrina to figure out a way to support her family.

The hero is His Grace, the golden-haired Lucien Dominick, Duke of Camareigh. When we first see him, he’s challenged to a duel by a young hothead. At dawn, he makes quick work of his opponent, displaying his sword-fighting talents.

Lucien’s face bears a dashing scar from when one of his cousins had cut his face as a child.

Speaking of Lucien’s cousins, they share a strange quasi-incestuous relationship and are the obvious villains of this book. They connive to have Lucien done away with to obtain the Dukedom.

Meanwhile, Lucien’s grandmother wants to see Lucien married, and Lucien seems resigned to seeking a wife, but certainly not one for love.

Moonstruck madness
Moonstruck Madness, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1977, H. Tom Hall

The Plot

So Sabrina takes on the wild idea of becoming a highwayman. With the help of two burly locals, she takes on the name “Bonny Prince Charlie,” puts on a mask and hat, deepens her voice into husky timbre, wraps herself in a tartan, and holds up the rich nobles who travel the dark country roads in their coaches.

Lucien, after being robbed and taunted by the Bonny Prince, snares a trap to catch “him.”

I love how Sabrina and Lucien have a sword fight, Lucien gets the best of her, as he is the better swordsman. They engage in tender lovemaking; there is no force, no dominance. I’ve said before in other reviews Laurie McBain might have been old-school, but she was never a bodice-ripper author.

When it’s discovered Sabrina is pregnant, the Marquess, in a rage, whips her mercilessly, only for Lucien to put a stop to the brutality and carry her off in his arms.

That’s more or less the first one-half to two-thirds of this book.

Unfortunately, in the second half, Sabrina and Lucien are at odds for too long.

However, it does pick up and get exciting towards the end as a search for hidden treasure brings them back together.

Final Analysis of Moonstruck Madness

I adored Moonstruck Madness. the first time I read it, I was in my twenties and loved it. The second time, I was in my thirties and enjoyed it a little bit less, but still found it a thrilling read.

As I said, the end falters a bit because the two stubborn hotheads are at odds for too long. nevertheless, this story was an entertaining, swashbuckling romance.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis

She’s one thing by day, something else altogether by night…

After escaping the slaughter of her clan at a young age, Scottish noblewoman Sabrina Verrick provides for her siblings by living a double life, until the night she encounters the Duke, and her secret and all she holds dear is threatened…

He’s so disillusioned, he’s completely vulnerable…

With his inheritance at stake, Lucien, Duke of Camareigh, sets a trap for the Scottish beauty with the piercing violet eyes, never imagining what will happen when the trap is sprung…

As their lives become irreversibly entangled, Lucien and Sabrina become each other’s biggest threat, as well as their only salvation… 

Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
the treacherous heart gignilliat

Historical Romance Review: The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie

historical romance review
The Treacherous Heart Rating: one-star
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Elaine Gignilliat
Published by: Fawcett
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 286
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie is a tale of a Gaelic, black-haired, fiery-spirited lass forced by circumstances to become a thief to provide for her family, only to be thwarted by an arrogant, scar-faced, golden-haired Duke…

Don’t Tell Me You’ve Heard This One Before!

Hmm. Where have I heard this plot before? Oh yes, Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness!

Sadly, that’s where the similarities end. If you remove all the intelligent writing, the interesting side characters, and the sexual chemistry between the leads from McBain’s book, we have this dull, meandering read.

Except for Jennifer Blake, I’ve come to find that Fawcett-published romances were rarely ever excellent, and this dud is another to put in the slush pile.

The Plot

The Treacherous Heart begins one day in Lancashire, England. Some drunken soldiers looking for excitement come upon the house of the Avory family. They ransack the home, kill the dog, the Irish-born widow Lady Delilah, and her young son before raping the teenage daughter.

The eldest sister and heroine, Raven, was not in residence while this occurred. She arrived only in time to witness the aftermath of her home’s destruction. So Raven flees with her sister Crystal to London to find comfort with relatives.

While her relations are suitably affluent, Raven and Christie find their financial circumstances are tenuous at best. A greedy land manager’s mishandling of their estate has left them destitute.

Raven enters Society, going to balls while escorted by her adoring cousin Wesley, who is gaga over her. At a masquerade, she meets the Duke of Dorchester, Eric Draquewall, our hero, who is predictably cold and arrogant. The duke glares at Raven and then insults her, but to his shock, her response is to laugh in his face, causing the duke to vow that he’ll teach the haughty chit a lesson!

Responsible for her convalescing younger sister and reliant upon the charity of relatives, Raven decides she’s too good to marry a wealthy chinless wonder. Within mere pages (by page 35), she decides to be a thief. She steals jewels and precious items from the gentry who welcomed her into their homes.

Soon, tales of the audacious jewel thief make the rounds. The burglar is given the moniker “The Black Cat.” (Get it? The heroine is named Raven and has black hair and green eyes, just like a black cat! Just like a cat burglar. And nobody even knew. Does that blow your mind, or what?)

The Romance

Jealous of Raven’s close relationship with her male cousin, the handsome Duke of Dorchester hires an investigator to find out if they’re secret lovers.

By page 60, he finds information that proves Raven is behind the jewel-napping antics. Dorchester could reveal her secret.

However, as Eric is attracted to Raven–what do you think that glaring and insulting was all about? That’s how these old-school romance heroes showed how much they liked a girl–he decides to blackmail her into being his mistress.

Or his wife.

Or mistress. Eric’s not really sure. All he knows is whatever Raven’s got under her velvety skirts, he wants in on that.

Raven finds that she responds to Eric’s caresses, despite her initial distaste towards any physical touch.

Raven was so disturbed by the brutality perpetrated upon her sister that she vowed no man would ever touch her.

Ironically, Crystal, the one who was violated, had an easy time finding healing through romantic and physical love. Okay, people react differently to trauma. Perhaps in the hands of a nuanced author, Raven’s survivor’s-guilt aversion to sex would have been a compelling part of her character. Alas, it isn’t. It’s just a plot contrivance to keep the hero and heroine from getting together. Circumstances occur mechanically here, without any flavor.

It Keeps Going and Going and Going…

And so Eric and Raven engage in a cat-and-mouse-will-they-or-won’t-they game for a few more pages.

Eric befriends Raven’s sister, showing he’s a nice guy. Eric’s mother thinks Raven would make the perfect wife for Eric. Raven resists the thought of marriage to this wealthy, handsome, friendly, attractive Duke because… Reasons?

When cousin Wesley finds out that Eric has been less than honorable with Raven, he challenges the Duke to a duel. Wesley is wounded in the swordfight, Eric gets scarred, and later Raven’s sister gets married. Then Eric sweeps Raven off to his estate, declaring his love for her before they finally get it on.

But Raven can’t be with Eric, because remember reasons!

So she flees to America to mooch off other family members, and The Treacherous Heart is only halfway through, and… OMG, make it stop!

Eric follows Raven to America, blah, blah, blah, a possible other woman makes an appearance, blah, blah, blah, Eric and Raven reunite, blah, blah, blah, villain seeks revenge, blah, blah, blah, happy ending.

Final Analysis of The Treacherous Heart

Events happened in Angela Alexie’s The Treacherous Heart. Characters engaged in dialogue, and time passed on, yet it was so dull.

All the pieces were in place, but the story was lifeless, like a dead frog connected to a car battery by jumper cables. Turn the ignition all you want; there’s just no spark here, no animation.

When boring writing is combined with a drawn-out, pale imitation of a superior work, it makes for a 1 star read. In this case, as I do appreciate the Elaine Gignilliat cover, I’ll give this sucker approximately one-and-a-half stars.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.4

1.74 Stars


Synopsis

The lady was a thief, the gentleman was a rogue. Their stormy romance defied propriety with a daring covenant of love.
Dire circumstances had left the beautiful young Lady Raven Avory bereft of family and funds. A desperate situation demanded a desperate remedy, and so she began stealing small jewels from the wealthy who had welcomed her as a guest.

She had not counted on being caught at her game, especially not by the handsome Duke of Dorchester. Suddenly she found herself forced into his debt, into his arms, into a star-crossed affair that would sweep her into a whirlwind of tangled hearts and the most brazen ecstasies of love.

The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie
uncommon vows

Historical Romance Review: Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney

Synopsis:

Lady Meriel de Vere had deceived Adrian, Earl of Shropshire. Standing in the royal forest, her falcon perched on her arm, she boldly claimed to be a Welsh commoner, not a noble Norman. Lord Adrian beheld in wonder her raven-black hair and defiant blue eyes, heard her lies, and felt a dark, primeval passion rob him of all reason.

In one irrevocable move of fate, he ordered this fair beauty locked in his castle’s tower, vowing to entice her into surrendering her kisses with lips as hungry as his own. Never to give in, to die if she must, was Meriel’s vow … until one rash moment of impetuousness swept them both up in the royal battles of kings … and into a dangerous intrigue of sweet caresses … and fiery, all-consuming love. 

UNCOMMON VOWS by MARY JO PUTNEY

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

I’ve read Mary Jo Putney‘s Uncommon Vows several times and have always enjoyed the compelling romance. It’s a passionate medieval bodice ripper about obsessive love.

The Plot

Lord Adrian was set for a life of priesthood when a family death changes his destiny. Lady Meriel seemed fated for a life in a nunnery. But twists and turns made it, so neither of these things came to pass. Instead, Adrian becomes the Earl of Shropshire and Meriel renounces her calling to live under the protection of her brother, a knight.

One day Adrian comes upon Meriel in a field and believes her to be a commoner. Adrian becomes fixated on Meriel’s stunning beauty. He takes her captive. Meriel, who is half-Welsh, deeply values her freedom and cannot understand how Adrian supposedly loves her if he keeps her prisoner.

She refuses Adrian’s attempts to seduce her so forcefully. Meriel throws herself out a stained-glass window, causing her to lose her memory.

Without all the baggage hanging on, Adrian is able to woo Muriel into loving him. But will her feelings remain the same when her memory returns?

When writing about the Medieval Era, many authors avoid religion. They treat it as a third rail topic. Here, in Uncommon Vows, it’s used uniquely and romantically. Adrian and Muriel cite phrases from the Bible–the Song of Solomon–to each other during their lovemaking. It works beautifully and poetically to enhance this thrilling love story.

Final Analysis of Uncommon Vows

Uncommon Vows is a fantastic battle of wills between a hero who is obsessed with the heroine and will do anything to have her and a heroine who refuses to submit to her enemy. Putney’s writing is at her best here, although maybe it’s because she so often borrows from one of the most poetic books ever written!

PS: I wish Mary Jo Putney had written a sequel about Adrian’s illegitimate brother. Does anyone know if she ever did?

5 Stars

highland velvet 2

Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

historical romance review
Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Montgomery Velvet #2; Montgomery/Taggert Family Saga #3
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Highland Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Jude Deveraux‘s Highland Velvet, the second entry in her Velvet series about four Montgomery brothers set in the early 16th century, is one of my favorite romances.

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux, Arrow, 1984

The Plot

Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna Mac Arran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.

Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent, Miles and Raine. In Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was made from the stuff of girlish dreams.

“You’ll regret that! Someday you’ll know that one drop of my blood is more precious than any angry feelings you carry!”

Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.

When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed.

Heck, he even changed his last name so that her Mac Arran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.

If anything, Bronwyn was the “bad” one: she stabbed him on their wedding night; she was the one who betrayed Stephen again and again. He deserved a much better heroine.

“Together,” he whispered. “For once, let’s do something together.”

Final Analysis of Highland Velvet

After over thirty-plus years, Jude Deveraux’s Highland Velvet‘s Stephen Montgomery remains one of my most beloved heroes in romance. He was a real nice guy, the kind of man any woman would be happy to have in real life.

I wonder why the terms nice guy and beta male get conflated so often. A man can still be an “alpha,” a leader to his people, but that doesn’t mean he has to be an over-bearing, woman-hating douchebag.

Bronwyn was awful, but her woe-is-me attitude wasn’t enough to overshadow Stephen, who was such a great character that he made this book. Other pluses were the wicked antics of Roger Chatworth and the doomed love story of his brother Brian with the Montgomery’s sole sister.

I really loved this one. Highland Velvet is a keeper. Of only I had the British Arrow edition of this book!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Bronwyn MacArran was a proud Scot. Stephen Montgomery was one of the hated English.

He came to Scotland as a conqueror, saw her beauty and was vanquished. But still she would abhor him.

She owned a temper hot enough to forge the armors of battle or inflame a valiant soldier’s passion. Yet still she would resist him.

She became his reason to live, his reason to love. And still she would deny him.

But while clan fought clan, while brother took up sword against brother, and the highlands ran with blood — their destiny was made… and this mighty warrior pledged himself to his woman’s pride, her honor and her name — and made of their love a torch to burn through the ages

HIGHLAND VELVET by JUDE DEVERAUX
claiming the courtesan

Historical Romance Review: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

neo bodice ripper
Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell
Rating: two-stars
Published: 2007
Illustrator: TBD
Published by: Avon
Genres: Neo-Bodice Ripper, Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 375
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’m not a fan of the execution of Claiming the Courtesan. I did think, though, what Anna Campbell tried to accomplish in her first book was refreshing.

She wrote a style romance I call a neo-bodice ripper. These books attempt to capture the violent sexual power dynamics of older romances yet are distinctly modern in presentation.

Something Old is New Again

I appreciated what Campbell wanted to create in the anti-hero Kylemore. A handsome, spoiled Duke, he was obsessed with hunting down his mistress Soraya who abandoned him. He was a loathsome, detestable being who cared only for his mad desires.

Initially, his intensity drew my attention. Soon, though, I found him to be a bratty, uncharismatic psycho-stalker.

I seem to be alone in this regard as I yearn for the days of stoic, inscrutable heroes. Those men whose love was shown through their actions. When they did speak, the words meant so much.

I prefer to be in the hero’s head as little as possible. Here, we’re given every angsty thought, every hateful sentiment, or lustful urge.

Soraya/Verity, with her dual personality, was an interesting albeit flawed character. She had to sell her body to help her family survive but wanted freedom.

It seemed as if Campbell intended this book to be a romantic feminist oeuvre, just like any good bodice ripper is. Because, despite their violent and rapey reputation, bodice rippers are decidedly pro-female.

Alas, Claiming the Courtesan failed to achieve what the great rippers of the ’70s & ’80s did: enlighten and titillate. This was too emo, with no thrills. The endless introspection and bad sex scenes became tedious.

The Plot & What Could Have Been

A problem with some modern romances is that authors dismiss what made many older ones great. The reader got to see the plot progress. Claiming the Courtesan lacked tension. The drama doesn’t unfold before our eyes, as the story begins in medias res with Kylemore searching for his missing mistress.

How more engaging if the book began with Kylemore meeting Verity? She would still be a courtesan whom many men desire. Over time, Kylemore seduces her away from her protector. All the while, Verity would be conflicted. Determined to leave her imposed career, she struggles with her feelings for Kylemore.

We’d see into more Verity & Kylemore’s relationship, perhaps a snarky side character or two, and more about Kylemore’s evil mother.

Then–just as the book actually began–Verity would flee from Kylemore, who would track her down and kidnap her. At that point, we’d see how their unusual bond progresses.

Finally, the epilogue would show how they deal with their scandalous relationship in polite society. Perhaps they’d decide to say to hell with the stifling ton and go to the colonies.

Instead, we hear them vow promises for a vague future.

A sex scene or two could have been cut, along with dozens of pages of inner monologue. But there’s your action; that’s a story.

Instead, there are chapters with dumps of internal dialogue.

The plot of Claiming the Courtesan consists of drawn-out events. After Verity is kidnapped (this portion alone takes up a considerable part of the novel), there are two-and-a-half-long chapters where she escapes from her carriage, is chased down in the dark by Kylemore, and is finally caught and brought to the carriage. It felt like watching a hamster run in a wheel, moving but going nowhere.

Introduced later on to add more drama are Verity’s concerned brother and Kylemore’s wicked mother. The characters feel clumsily tacked on.

The final resolution is unsatisfactory. There is a hint of a happy ending; an epilogue was necessary to cement it.

“Verity, you have a choice,” he said gently. “We eat, we talk, we pass the evening with an attempt at civility. Or we fuck. It’s up to you.”

My Opinion: The Decline of Historical Romance

My frustration with so many romances of the last two decades is that they’ve lost the art of storytelling in favor of emotional overload. Nothing happens, but every minor issue is so dramatically addressed. It’s so overwrought.

Why has historical romance degraded to wallpaper irrelevance? Is this what audiences really want? Characters dressed in old-time garments, sipping tea? Books that superficially touch upon manners, but have tons of explicit sex scenes? Heroes asking for consent at every turn and page after page of emotional hand-wringing?

I guess it is, and I’m just not part of the cool kid’s club. Give me food and clothes porn, un-politically correct mindsets, heroes who dare to do wrong, heroines who’ll slap them right back, and salacious purple prose any day.

Final Analysis of Claiming the Courtesan

This book could have sparked a retro genre of 21st-century bodice rippers, rather than just being a gimmick of a plot that led to a bit of controversy. If I want to read a romance with power struggles and dominance issues between the hero and heroine, they rarely exist in historical romances anymore. Those books have been diluted to blandness. Historicals are all so cookie-cutter. I’d have to contemporary-set BDSM romances, New Adult erotica, or paranormal fantasy to look for my spice. However, I’m just not interested in those genres.

This was such a shame. Claiming the Courtesan could have been something special, but it was bogged down in psychological analysis and not enough substance.

A wise rapper, Redman, once said, “If you gotta be a monkey, be a gorilla.” If you’re going to pen a bodice ripper, go balls-to-wall crazy with it. Have no shame about it. Be proud to be outrageous. Otherwise, stick to what everyone else writes because, apparently, it does sell.

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.3