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defiant ecstasy janelle taylor

Historical Romance Review: Defiant Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

book review historical romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Defiant Ecstasy Book #2 in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

Part One Defiant Ecstasy

Defiant Ecstasy begins by filling in details of what occurred at the end of the first book, Savage Ecstasy.

Then Gray Eagle, the “hero” of the series, shows up at Fort Pierre with 2,000 Indian warriors behind him. He has a demand for the denizens of Fort Pierre. They must release his white lover, Alisha Katrina Williams, to him, or he and his warriors will destroy the fort and everyone in it.

After some contentious debate, the Army decides to send Alisha back to Gray Eagle.

Gray Eagle and Alisha are both happy with the decision. Nevertheless, Gray Eagle orders his braves to destroy the fort, anyway, as payback for how the soldiers and others in the fort treated Alisha. For a while, they are happy.

Two events, however, happen to shatter their happiness.

The first: Gray Eagle’s “betrothed”, a Lakota woman named Chela, tries to kill Alisha. Gray Eagle stops this from occurring.

Part Two Defiant Ecstasy

What he can’t stop, at least immediately, is the second event. A Blackfoot woman concocts a ruse that Alisha isn’t really Alisha Williams, an English ex-pat, but Princess Shalee, a half-white, half-Blackfoot woman who was abducted years earlier. As part of the scheme, Alisha is taken out of the Lakota village and to a Blackfoot village to marry Shalee’s betrothed, a Blackfoot warrior named Brave Bear.

While in the Blackfoot camp, Alisha begins having romantic feelings toward Brave Bear, who treats her with kindness that Gray Eagle doesn’t. Gray Eagle, however, refuses to give Alisha up and challenges Brave Bear for the right to marry her. Gray Eagle defeats Brave Bear–but, at Alisha’s urging, does not kill him.

As they prepare for their joining ceremony, Gray Eagle and Alisha are plagued with problems, most of which are self-inflicted.

Some of these issues are eventually resolved, and Alisha and Gray Eagle marry and are happy…

For now, anyway.

defiant ecstasy alt
Defiant Ecstasy, alt cover

The Upside

Mrs. Taylor’s evocative, flowing writing style is on display here, as she brought me into the world of Gray Eagle and Alisha. The characters are well-developed.

The Downside

Having already established Gray Eagle as an emotional/physical abuser/rapist, Mrs. Taylor spends much of Defiant Ecstasy trying to rehabilitate him.

For some, it might work. For me…not at all. While I don’t believe it is necessarily fair to judge someone solely by one action–or a series of actions–Gray Eagle shows no remorse for his behavior. In fact, he blames Alisha for what he has done to her! And Alisha, on occasion, agrees with him! Not good.

Sex

Very little in the way of love scenes, and those that do happen are typically mild and flowery in the Janelle Taylor style.

Violence

The sacking of Fort Pierre occurs “offscreen.” Gray Eagle and Brave Bear’s fight is only mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Defiant Ecstasy

I am a fan of Janelle Taylor and her works. Defiant Ecstasy is a decent book. However, I totally repudiate her efforts to try to defend/excuse/justify Gray Eagle’s behavior.

3.85

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

Synopsis

The longer Alisha Williams remained at Fort Pierre, the more she hoped her redskinned lover would rescue her from the taunts and tirades of the white pioneers. They would never let her forget she had been the mistress of the infamous savage warrior, Gray Eagle. As if the auburn-haired beauty could forget! Each night, Alisha sweetly remembered Gray Eagle’s bold caresses, burning kisses, his blazing passion. Each day, she scanned the vast horizon in hopes her Oglala brave would recapture her.

Then one day, Alish saw hundreds of Indian warriors riding to the gates of Fort Pierre–and at their head was the fierce Gray Eagle. Though her most fervent prayers had been answered, Alisha’s heart skipped a beat: Would Gray Eagle destroy her–or make her destiny his own? 

Defiant Ecstasy by JANELLE TAYLOR
tender savage phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

tender savage phoebe conn
Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Tender Savage, a standalone Zebra Lovegram by Phoebe Conn.

Tender Savage starts in Wilmington, Delaware, in June 1862. The book spans from June 1862 to September 1863 during the American Civil War.

The Plot

Part One of Tender Savage

The book begins with Erica Hanson and Mark Randall kissing passionately. The night won’t end happily for either, unfortunately. Mark and Erica’s father, Lars, a physician, are going to leave the next day to join the Union army.

Erica is being sent to New Ulm, Minnesota. She is to live with Lars’ sister, Britta, and her husband, Karl Ludwig, who owns a store there. However, Erica wants to marry Mark–or at least become his lover–before leaving for war. Mark refuses. This is the source of the conflict between them.

When Erica arrives in New Ulm, she meets Viper, a half-Lakota, half-white Indian. They share kisses and are attracted to each other.

Things look bleak as Viper and his fellow Lakota will soon be at war with the white citizens of New Ulm after promises from the government fail to materialize. During the uprising, Viper kidnaps Erica. He does so for two reasons. One is to keep her from being killed, and two, because he’s hot for her. It’s not so bad, as she is also hot for him. Erica and Viper become lovers and are married in the Lakota tradition.

Soon, however, hardships emerge. Viper’s aunt, plus an evil-other woman who is in lust with him, causes problems for Erica.

Part Two of Tender Savage

An even bigger problem will soon present itself in the form of Mark. He arranges a transfer to Minnesota to find Erica and marry her. Mark arrives in Minnesota, finds Erica with Viper, and arrests him. Viper must stand trial in a military tribunal, where he is tried and convicted.

After this, Viper asks Mark to marry Erica, which Mark agrees to. Erica and Mark marry, and he is sent back to Wilmington to rejoin the Union Army. Happiness and sadness soon follow as Erica discovers she is pregnant with Viper’s child. Meanwhile, Mark is seriously injured during the war, gets blinded, and becomes an invalid who needs constant care.

Back in Minnesota, Viper’s conviction is vacated. He leaves the state heading to Delaware to find Erica. Adopting the name “Etienne Bouchard” (his French grandfather’s name), Viper finagles his way into becoming Mark’s companion, which severely irritates Erica.

Soon after “Etienne’s” arrival, Erica gives birth to a son who looks exactly like Etienne. This creates a rift between Erica and Etienne on one side and Lars and Sarah Randall–Mark’s sister–, on the other. Poor, hapless Mark doesn’t know he’s not the child’s father.

In the end, Mark conveniently passes away. Erica and Viper go back to Minnesota–to a different part of the state. Lars and Sarah marry, and both couples have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The backdrop of Tender Savage is the Minnesota Sioux Uprising of 1862, an actual occurrence. Mrs. Conn does a fairly good job melding her fictional characters with real people and events.

On some levels, Tender Savage tries to be like Nancy Henderson (Nan) Ryan’s excellent romance, Kathleen’s Surrender. Like that book, Tender Savage takes place in part during the Civil War and features a love triangle. That, however, is where the similarities end.

Downside

Mrs. Ryan had the ability to make me, as a reader, care about her characters and feel their emotions. Mrs. Conn–although she tries–sadlyTender Savage does not.

Tender Savage is the seventh book I’ve read by Phoebe Conn. Like the other six, Tender Savage lacks both emotional depth and character development.

I also had issues with the heroine and hero. Erica checks off the basic romance heroine boxes: she’s beautiful, young, sexy, and has a great body, but… That’s it. There really is no substance to her.

Viper is worse. Mrs. Conn would have been better served to name him “Etienne Bouchard” because Viper is basically a white Indian. Although she researched the uprising, it is clear that Mrs. Conn did none about the Lakota tribe.

There is almost nothing about Viper–besides living in a teepee and eating pemmican–that would identify him as a Native American. The only depth to his character is that we learn he has French ancestry.

There is very little romantic chemistry between Erica and Viper. The beginning of their relationship in no way indicates love; they are in lust with each other. Although Mrs. Conn tries at the end, she falls well short of creating the type of characters I can genuinely care about.

Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that after he gained access to the Hanson home, Viper spent a great deal of time trying to have sex with Erica even though she was married to Mark.

I also didn’t buy the “Erica and Mark didn’t consummate their marriage; therefore, they weren’t legally married, and Viper’s actions were okay” excuse at the end of the book, either.

Sex

I will give Mrs. Conn credit for writing slightly better love scenes here than in her previous books, but that is damning with very faint praise.

Violence

Most of the violence takes place “off-screen.” However, there are “on-screen” scenes of assault and battery, and a slashing occurs.

Bottom Line On Tender Savage

There was the foundation for a good book in Tender Savage.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Conn was not the author to mine the gold that might have been there. Instead, the book ends up in “pewter territory.” 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

TOO FAST TO STOP
When innocent Erica Hansen fled to Minnesota to escape the Civil War’s horrors, she had no idea she was stepping right into the middle of an Indian uprising. And until a painted, whooping brave swept her onto his stallion, she never guessed how unsafe her new home really was. The curvaceous blonde struggled against her captor’s grip, but the farther they rode from civilization, the wilder her response to him became. The passionate beauty knew she should bite, scratch and kick the warrior, but before she could think of the consequences, Erica began to caress, kiss and embrace him!

TOO FAR TO RETURN
From the moment he beheld the golden-haired paleface, the Sioux fighter named Viper swore she’d never meet the white captives’ fate of torture and degradation. This was a woman created for the most ecstatic kinds of lovemaking … and the virile male would make sure he’d be the one to show her the myriad ways to enjoy pleasure. He promised himself he’d release her when the furor of the battle died down. But once the jet-haired Sioux trapped her in his arms, he realized a lifetime was too short to savor her ivory skin, to exult in her lavender scent, to take her time and again as her Tender Savage. 

TENDER SAVAGE by PHOEBE CONN
dakota flame sonya t pelton zebra

Historical Romance Review: Dakota Flame by Sonya T. Pelton

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Dakota Flame

This review is of Dakota Flame, a standalone novel from July 1989 by Sonya T. Pelton. (Published by Zebra/Kensington).

The Plot

Part 1: Savage Journey

Dakota Flame begins in Mankato, Minnesota, in December 1862. Thirty-eight Lakota braves are executed for their attack on a white settlement. Among them is a brave named Red Hawk.

Later, his spirit pouch ends up with Audrey Tina (Audrina) Harris, 20, the heroine of the book. Audrina has red hair, green eyes, and honey-gold skin. The reason Audrina receives the pouch: unbeknownst to her, Audrina is half-Lakota.

Soon after getting the pouch, Audrina is nearly raped by soldier Joe Powell. She is saved from this indignity by Wild Hawk, the hero of the book. Wild Hawk has black hair and bronzed skin. Wild Hawk is chief to his band of Lakota, and Red Hawk’s son.

He wants the pouch, and as time goes on, he also wants Audrina. Wild Hawk kidnaps Audrina, and later her Aunt Katherine and Sadie Peterson, another white woman, and takes them to his village. As they travel, Audrina begins developing romantic feelings for Wild Hawk, as he does for her.

The trip is not entirely pleasant; two other Lakotas, a brave, Left Hand, and his sister, Tawena, hate all whites and have evil plans for the white women.

Part II: Precious Fire

Not everyone will make it to Wild Hawk’s village. Katherine is killed by Left Hand. Later, Audrina and Wild Hawk become lovers. While this is going on, Sadie begins having romantic feelings toward Wild Hawk’s younger cousin, Fox Dreamer.

Part III: Savage Angel

As they make their way to Wild Hawk’s home village, Audrina finds herself in a dilemma: on the one hand, she’s falling in love with Wild Hawk; on the other, she wants to live a white person’s life. Meanwhile, Left Hand and Tawena have joined up with Powell to get Audrina and Sadie. Later, LeftHand rapes Sadie, and Powell semi-abducts Audrina (she went willingly with Powell after he lied to her about her father appearing).

Part IV: Lost Embrace

Upon learning of Audrina’s departure, Wild Hawk comes to the realization that he does, in fact, love her, and sets out to find her. Powell is killed, but this doesn’t free Audrina; instead, she becomes the captive of Left Hand.

In the end, the following things occur: Left Hand, Powell, and Tawena are all killed. Wild Hawk finds and rescues Audrina, they reconcile their differences and acknowledge that they love each other. Audrina does meet her father, Frank Harris, who is also half-Indian. Audrina and Wild Hawk have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Dakota Flame is the best book I’ve read by Ms. Pelton so far (out of the 7 I’ve read. More on that later). Audrina is a fairly likable character. The love scenes are good for a mainstream historical romance novel from 1989.

Downside

Dakota Flame contains two tropes I really dislike, maybe to the point of hating. Those tropes are captor/captive and Simpering Sara.

Wild Hawk kidnaps Audrina, and during the course of the book, he is cruel at times to her. Despite this, Audrina is hot for his form and is willing to forgive his behavior toward her.

Although I liked Audrina, she is at times royally stupid, an example of this is her going with Powell, even though he nearly raped her earlier because he’s white. Audrina’s thinking-or not thinking: “Hey, he’s white. Even though he nearly raped me, he can be trusted because, you know, he’s white!”

She is also a bit whiny, spending much of the book yearning for the white world yet acknowledging she’s in love with a man who can’t live there. There is no character depth or development.

The book is told from the following perspectives: Audrina. Katherine. Powell. Sadie. Tawena. Left Hand. Who’s missing from this list? Wild Hawk. Only in the last third of the book does Ms. Pelton allows Wild Hawk to speak in his own voice and express his own thoughts. The books I like best are those where both the hero and heroine get equal or near equal time to do this.

Sex

As mentioned, the love scenes are quite good for a mainstream historical romance novel from 1989. The scenes in Dakota Flame don’t approach erotica, but they are on par with the love scenes from Cassie Edwards’ many Native American romances.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, and killings all take place here. The rape scene is mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Dakota Flame

I mentioned earlier that Dakota Flame is my favorite book authored by Ms. Pelton. Considering that she has written such “classics” as Passion’s Paradise, that’s not exactly a high bar to get over. It is also a milestone, as Dakota Flame is the first book by Ms. Pelton to get more than a 2-star rating from me, but just barely.

***

Tropes: American Upper Midwest. Captor/captive. Half -Native-American Heroine. Historical Romance. Native American Hero.

Location: Mankato, Minnesota. South Dakota.

Time Frame: Late 1862-1863.

2.52 Stars


Synopsis:

Because enchantingly lovely Audrina Harris knew that she was destined to play a major role in the tribal life of the Dakota people, it came as no surprise when Chief Wild Hawk rode into the Minnesota River Valley town and captured her, swinging her up behind him on his powerful black stallion.

Audrina felt the sharp stirring of rapture the moment her eyes met his, but the feisty, independent young beauty was determined not to be his captive. She would fulfill her destiny freely, or not at all. But the farther westward they traveled, the more she became a slave to Wild Hawk’s searing kisses and the sweet strength of his powerful bronze arms. And the more she realized how easy it would be to leave the white world behind for a lifetime of scorching love with her passionate Indian warrior.

BEGUILED INTO LOVE
Deeply saddened and angered by his father’s death at the white man’s hands, all Chief Wild Hawk wanted was to lead his tribe to peace and to obey the call of his dream vision: to capture the beautiful young girl who possessed the sacred talisman of the Dakota people. But Audrina Harris proved to be more than the paleface slave he’d bargained for. She had spirit and fire and a mind of her own–and the loveliest body he had ever seen.

When his lips first touched her luscious flesh, he knew that it was more than tribal destiny and a length of frayed rope that bound her to him. He knew he could not live without her warm breath in his ear, the fiery touch of her soft curves beneath his hands, and the raging passion that soon ignited into a fierce DAKOTA FLAME.

DAKOTA FLAME by SONYA T. PELTON
Savage Ecstasy Popp

Historical Romance Review: Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

native american romance
Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage/ Gray Eagle #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor. This is the first book in her Ecstasy/Gray Eagle series, which is known by two different names.

There’s a lot to unpack here in this Zebra Native American historical romance.

The Story

Part One of Savage Ecstasy

The year is 1776, and English expatriate Alisha Williams is 20 years old. Our heroine (who’s also the heroine of the first four books in the series), has journeyed west to find happiness with her only surviving relative, her uncle Thad.

One day, the “men” in her settlement bring a captured Oglala Lakota Indian brave into their camp. that brave is Gray Eagle, the “hero” of the book. Their treatment of him sets the stage for what follows. The whites emotionally and physically abuse Gray Eagle in the camp.

Only Alisha shows Gray Eagle kindness; his response to this is to bite her hand. (This is only the beginning of what he has in store for her over the course of the series.) Despite this, Gray Eagle and Alisha develop romantic feelings for each other.

Part Two of Savage Ecstasy

Gray Eagle, with the help of his best friend, White Arrow, escapes. Shortly thereafter, Gray Eagle, White Arrow, and a hundred of their fellow Oglala braves sack the fortress, killing most people in the camp. The only survivors include three men, and women Gray Eagle keeps alive because he has special plans for them and Alisha.

As the days go on, Alisha and Gray Eagle’s relationship takes the form it will take for the majority of the book and series. Sometimes, Gray Eagle treats Alisha with great emotional, mental, physical, and sexual cruelty. Other times, he’s kind and loving to her. Both people are conflicted with their emotions toward the other.

Sometime later, while the braves are away on a hunt, Alisha is “rescued” by the Army and taken to Fort Pierre. There Alisha meets two men who will affect both her and Gray Eagle’s lives. They are: Powchutu, a half-white, half-Lakota scout for the Army who becomes Alisha’s only friend at the fort. And there is Lieutenant Jeffrey Gordon.

Later, Gray Eagle and a few thousand of his closest friends show up at the fort. They demand Alisha be returned to him, or he and his braves will kill everyone inside. After a short deliberation, the Army decides to hand Alisha back over to Gray Eagle. This is also a tone-setting action for Alisha and Gray Eagle’s relationship and lives.

Upside

At her best, Ms. Taylor is right up there with Rosanne Bittner for writing evocative, lyrical novels. In many ways, Ms. Taylor’s writing in Savage Destiny fits that category. I felt as though I were with Alisha and Gray Eagle, watching their lives. The descriptions of Lakota culture show that this is a well-researched book.

Downside

The biggest downside of this book–and the books in the series he is in–is Gray Eagle. As mentioned above, Gray Eagle is extremely cruel to Alisha throughout the book. Ms. Taylor tries to defend/excuse/justify this behavior in the following ways (my paraphrasing):

  • Alisha is white.
  • She is Gray Eagle’s slave. She should be submissive to him.
  • Because she is not submissive all the time, he has to treat her poorly. In other words, she made him do it.
  • Lakota culture, tradition, and religion.
  • He has to treat her poorly in order not to lose face with his people.

At the end of the book, Alisha blames herself for his abuse of her. None of these excuses hold water in my view. All of the above turn the “romance” between Alisha and Gray Eagle into a Stockholm Syndrome relationship.

The secondary characters–except for Gray Eagle’s best friend, White Arrow, who is also in love/lust with Alisha (as just about every male in the book ios)–are one-dimensional. The white characters hate Indians. The Indian characters hate whites.

As strong as Alisha is on many levels, she is extremely weak when it comes to her relationship with Gray Eagle, accepting and attempting to justify his abhorrent behavior. Although in the interest of fairness, Alisha has no money and no family to help her after her uncle, Thad, was killed in the raid on the fortress earlier.

Sex

Ms. Taylor’s love scenes are very flowery, with a lot of euphemistic expressions for sex rather than a nuts-and-bolts description of the act.

Violence

Plenty of emotional and physical violence. Assault and battery, attempted rape, actual rape, and torture are all featured here.

Bottom Line on Savage Ecstasy

I deleted an earlier review in order to reread the book to give this Native American romance a more nuanced review. On a lot of levels, Janelle Taylor‘s Savage Ecstasy is a very good book.

However, the deliberate, misogynistic violence–and the lame attempts to excuse it–bring the book down quite a bit in my eyes.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.2

Synopsis

It was like lightning, the first time they looked into each other’s eyes: Gray Eagle, the captured Indian brave, and Alisha, the beautiful young settler. As the proud Oglala warrior was being tortured by his white captors, only Alsiha seemed to notice he was a human being – handsome and strong, and one who took her breath away.

But if Alisha could have read Gray Eagle’s thoughts she would have been even more disturbed…Because from the moment he saw her, the Indian knew he had to possess the fair-skinned one – and his life would not be complete until he had made her his slave!

Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor