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Captive Heart phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn

historical romance review
Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 526
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn, a Zebra Lovegram historical romance novel.

The Plot

Captive Heart takes place at an undetermined point in history. It is here that Celiese d’Loganville is a slave to Olgerthe Torvald, the pampered daughter of Raktor Torvald, a brutal Viking warlord.

As the book begins, Aldread Valdahl, whose family hates the Torvalds, offers a truce to Raktor. Aldread’s son, Mylan, will marry Olgerethe and end the feud between the families.

Olgerethe refuses to go along with the plan; she will not marry Mylan due to his being disfigured after a fight with a bear. She convinces Celiese to marry Mylan in her place.

When Celiese meets Mylan, she discovers, despite his disfigurement, that he is a very handsome man. They soon marry and enjoy their wedding night.

The next day, however, Raktor tries to kill the couple.

Mylan believes that Celiese knew of the pending attack and grows to hate her. This leads to Mylan spending the next part of the book emotionally and mentally abusing Celiese, calling her his slave, among other derogatory statements. He does offer Celiese a lifeline, however, telling her that if she kills the bear that maimed him, he will set her free. Celiese sets out to do just that, although she doesn’t actually end the bear’s life–Mylan does–she does wound the bear, and Mylan sets her free.

Celiese goes back to Mylan’s family, but this creates further problems. One of Mylan’s younger brothers, Hagen, is in love/lust with Celiese, and later, one of Olgerethe’s brothers, Oluf, tries to rape Celiese. Mylan kills him, but with the other Torvald brothers vowing revenge–and his own father helping them–Mylan and Celiese head to France.

Upon arriving in France, Celiese discovers her mother, Marie, is alive. Their reunion doesn’t go well, however, when Marie discovers that Celiese is married to Mylan, a hated Viking. Celiese plans to get her family’s land back from the Danish invader Hrolf, now known as Robert, who obtained the land from King Charles. Celiese’s plan does not go well.

After being imprisoned by Robert, Mylan rescues her. He does so by claiming to renounce his Danish heritage, agreeing to become a Christian, and marrying Celiese again. This second marriage, however, does not solve all of the issues between them.

By the end of the book, both Celiese and Mylan realize that they do love each other and put those feelings into words that help them find their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Celiese. She endures unspeakable cruelty from virtually all the males in her life, but she remains strong. That’s a great quality to have.

The Downside

For the first third of the book, Mylan is a total bastard. He inflicts intentional emotional and mental cruelty upon Celiese. Yes, she lied to him in the beginning, but that doesn’t justify his treatment of her.

Most of the time, Celiese doesn’t think through her actions, leading her to get into difficult and sometimes dangerous situations

With the exception of Celiese’s stablehand, Andre, there isn’t a likable male in Captive Heart.

Sex

The love scenes in Captive Heart are more about the emotions of the act than the esoterics.

Violence

It is mentioned that Celiese was treated brutally by Raktor and his sons. Later, Celiese is assaulted several times. The violence described is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Captive Heart

Phoebe Conn’s take on “Beauty and the Beast” is far from classic. Captive Heart is somewhere around a 1-star book.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
1
Cover
4
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

BOUND BY PLEASURE
Celiese, the lovely slave girl, gasped when her betrothed emerged from the shadows. She had been secretly sent in her mistress’s place to wed the much-feared Mylan. But instead of the cruel savage she had expected, he was a magnificently handsome warrior. His cool topaz gaze unnerved her. The fire in his touch sent shivers of unfamiliar desire down her spine. And the sweet madness of his burning kiss as he trapped her within an iron embrace made her forget her past, abandon all reason, and surrender herself–if only for one night–to the pleasures of passion’s fire.

BRANDED BY PASSION
Mylan stared in astonishment at the woman before him. Instead of the spoiled, pampered innocent he had expected, she was a radiant silver-blonde beauty. The hot flush of her cheeks disarmed him; the flame in the emerald depths of her eyes aroused him. Gathering her into his arms, he silenced her startled protest with a slow, wanton kiss and awakened her supple flesh with tender, searching caresses. He would teach her the secrets of passion, take her to ecstasy’s searing heights, and forever possess her Captive Heart.

Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,
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
once a princess duillo

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Cardinia Royalty #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

“Tanya, ya slut!”

ONCE A PRINCESS

Once a Princess was not one of my favorites by Johanna Lindsey. I’d put this in the unremarkable category with books like Glorious Angel and Tender is the Storm. Not her worst, by any means, but not her best either.

The Cover

Perhaps it had to do with Once A Princess’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine.

So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back, and I prefer an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up.

And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?

once a princess cover

The Plot

The plot about the search for a secret princess from a fictional country was all right. It was the main characters that made this one almost unbearable.

It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana. She was stolen as an infant from her family, who’ve searched for her for years. So how will Stefan know who she is? Well, she’s got a special little birthmark hidden away in a very private place that will prove her identity. That sounds positively regal.

Tanya, the princess they’re looking for, works in a tavern as a maid, gets paid a pittance, and is treated like garbage. I believe the first words spoken to her were “Tanya, ya slut!” so you know she gets no respect.

She tries to make herself look ugly on purpose for the customers not to harass her. All Tanya had was dirt and mud smeared on her face, but Stefan thought Tanya was unattractive, too. That is until her ugly makeup comes off when she does some naked swimming, and Stefan catches sight of her.

I couldn’t enjoy the story because I never warmed up to the characters. This was one of those Lindseys where the protagonists are unbearable. Stefan was a grouch, mainly because of his insecurity about being ugly. His face was scarred by an injury from an animal’s claws. Tanya was too feisty, always fighting for the sake of fighting. So together, they just argued and argued for ages.

I much preferred Stefan’s sexy cousin, Vasili, and I suppose Johanna Lindsey did also, as she gave Vasili his own book, You Belong to Me.

Final Analysis of Once a Princess

It took forever to finish Once a Princess, and I skimmed a lot to get to the end. For me to do that with a Johanna Lindsey book was unheard of at the time. I thought this one was a sign of ominous things to come, but for the time being, it was an anomaly, as I loved her next books from Prisoner of My Desire to Surrender My Love.

After that, I was busy with school and a social life that consisted of dating guys rather than reading about them. Therefore I had neither the time nor inclination to read romances until I settled down years later.

(TMI, I know, but that’s what I do in these reviews.)

2.12 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 2.6

Synopsis:

Once Upon A Time…In a rustic Mississippi tavern, a beautiful exiled princess was forced to dance for the pleasure of others unaware of her regal birthright…and infuriated by a magnificent golden-eyed devil who crossed an ocean to possess her. From A Far Off Land… A bold and brazen prince came to America to claim his promised bride. But the spirited vixen spurned his affections while inflaming his royal blood with passion’s fire…impelling virile Stefan Barany to take in sensuous and searing conquest the love Tatiana vowed never to yield.

ONCE A PRINCESS by JOHANNA LINDSEY
palace-of-the-peacock-violet-winspear-jh

Vintage Romance Review: Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear

BOOK REVIEW vintage
Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1969
Illustrator: J h
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #1318
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Vintage Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Vintage Romance Review: Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear

The Book

Palace of the Peacocks may be a bit of an ultra-vintage oldie, as it was published in 1969, not post-1972. However, I’m running short on reviews for this weekend. Plus, this book is a Violet Winspear Harlequin Romance–an author whose works I enjoy.

This one was a nice read, sweet but filled with enough drama to add some zing.

palace of the peacocks

The Plot

In Winspear’s Palace of the Peacocks, the heroine Temple Lane is typical of many of her vintage romance sisters. She is orphaned, diligent, faithful, and unworldly.

She flies to Indonesia to meet up with her long-time fiancé, but her life falls into shambles after discovering his affair with a local girl. Without any funds to get back home, she’s desperate to find employment. Temple disguises herself as a boy to gain passage on a ship. She’s bunked with a stoic, one-eyed Dutchman named Ryk van Helden. (Winspear had a thing for maiming heroes, didn’t she? Blinding them, cutting off their limbs, etc.)

Eventually, Temple’s true identity is revealed. When Ryk hears of her plight, he offers Temple employment, transcribing old journals in his beautiful, enchanting jungle palace.

Ryk also provides Temple with room, board, and a female servant. The maid makes no bones about her resentment of Temple, as she has designs on Ryk herself.

As the weeks pass, Temple slowly falls under the combined spell of the romantic tale she’s working on and her seductive surroundings.

Not to mention, there is her cold yet dangerously attractive employer. Ryk treats Temple dismissively, acting superior to her in every way. Temple, though is no meek girl and meets his seeming disdain head-on with lots of spirit.

Final Analysis of Palace of the Peacocks

I really enjoyed Palace of the Peacocks, despite it containing my big romance pet peeve of the hero-in-mourning-for-his-dead-lover. Fortunately, Winspear doesn’t ever go into Ryk’s head; he’s written enigmatically until the very end.

That’s what I like: a man of mystery, albeit one the reader knows, deep down, he’s falling hard for his heroine—none of this psycho-analyzing the hero’s thoughts every two pages.

And, of course, there’s the extraordinary long-awaited declaration of love in the end!

Palace of the Peacocks is a satisfying romance with a jealous other woman, a charming locale, a heroine who gives as good as she gets, and a seemingly-aloof hero who falls madly for her.

3.75 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis

Temple Lane had gone out to the Java Seas to marry her fiance, but all her plans fell through when she found someone else had taken her place. In her desperate endeavours to get away from the situation, she met the Dutchman Ryk van Helden -and promptly found she had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire! It was difficult enough being the only white girl for miles around – but the greater problem was how to cope with what she soon recognised as the devastating attraction of her new employer. True, he seemed to look on her as just another of the waifs and strays he was so fond of collecting – and Temple knew he had never forgotten the girl he had once loved, and lost -but nevertheless, he was a man of magnetic appeal, and even if he could remain impervious to the situation, could Temple?

PALACE OF THE PEACOCKS by VIOLET WINSPEAR

Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb

category romance
Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #253
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback, ARC
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Call Back Yesterday is the first Harlequin Presents written by Charlotte Lamb.

There are two HP writers I absolutely adore: Miranda Lee and Charlotte Lamb. Lamb wrote mostly in the ’70s and ’80s. Lee was a modern woman of the ’90s and 2000s. Both authors had the ability to portray great heroines from vastly different lifestyles.

From poor, innocent virgins to victims who rise above tragedy to mature, sexually experienced sophisticates, they were wonderful to read about.

The Plot

In Call Back Yesterday, Oriel Mellstock belongs to the latter group. Oriel and Devil Haggard were cousins who grew up together and grew to love each other. (If that gives you an ick-factor, they’re only second cousins).

Cruel fate separates them.

Oriel leaves and marries a man 30 years older. She actually has a normal marriage, sleeps with him (albeit without much passion), and has a child. Her multi-millionaire husband dies, and she returns to her hometown to get a little revenge.

As Call Back Yesterday was Charlotte Lamb’s first HP, it’s a bit milder than her later works. There is no consummation in this book, but she throws a bunch of HP tropes at you:

  • The much-beloved manor the heroine fights to own
  • A darkly brooding, bastard hero who rides on a black stallion
  • The manipulative wife who separates the lovers; a vicious other-woman
  • Multiple men who vie for the heroine’s affections
  • Even a couple of cute kids.

One thing I love about older Harlequins is the quick-moving plots, and this one is no different.

My favorite scene is where Oriel and Devil come face to face at last, and she whips him on the face with her riding crop, then he grabs her crop, takes her over the knee, and whips her backside.

Then he forces a kiss on her, and Oriel is like, well, I deserved the beating, but the kiss was just too much! WTF!

Final Analysis of Call Back Yesterday

The ending of Call Back Yesterday was a bit unsatisfactory. I wanted more of a dramatic reveal at the climax to make this one perfect.

Still, this was a fine outing for Charlotte Lamb.

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