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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


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
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.7


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.

raptures rage

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rage by Bobbi Smith

historical romance review
Rapture's Rage by Bobbi Smith
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Dorchester, Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 480
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rage by Bobbi Smith


The Book

This review is of Rapture’s Rage by Bobbi Smith, originally a Zebra romance, and then reissued by Dorchester’s Leisure imprint.

The Plot

The book begins with a backstory about the father of Renee Fontaine, the heroine of Rapture’s Rage.

Cliffs’ Notes version: Roger Fontaine, Renee’s father, meets Anne Chase-Parker. They fall in love and get married. He becomes stepfather to her daughter, Elizabeth. Later, Anne and Roger have a daughter, Renee.

Anne dies from fever. Roger goes into deep mourning. Elizabeth is taken away by maternal grandparents.

Elizabeth later marries Marshall Westlake, the hero of the book and a prosperous lawyer in St. Louis. Their marriage is not a happy one, due to Elizabeth’s fears. She dies trying to kill their unborn child.

Fast forward several years.

Renee is now 16, Roger has passed and she is going to live with her aunt, Elise, in St. Louis. Renee is courted first by Marshall’s brother, James, a ship’s captain. The Westlake’s family business is shipping. Marshall is the outlier.

He quickly bows out gracefully upon realizing she only has eyes for Marshall. James will get his own love interest in another book.

Renee and Marshall fall in love, marry, and for a spell, are happy. Their happiness is imperiled, however, by three people. They are: Juliana Chandler, Marshall’s ex-lover, who vows to break up the couple, and Wes and Frank Maguire, two outlaws who Marshall sent to jail.

The brothers break out of prison. With Juliana’s help, they attack Renee and Marshall She is injured as they kidnap and torture him.

Renee moves back to Louisiana and discovers she is having Marsh’s baby. He is later rescued, but believes she is dead.

Renee and Marshall reunite, have a few rocky moments but overcome them, have their own child, a son, and have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Ms. Smith does a good job of exploring her characters’ emotions, even her minor ones.

Ms. Smith made me feel Marshall’s despair when he is kidnapped and isolated in a very small room.

She made me feel Renee’s pain when she thinks Marshall is dead, and everything in between.

The Downside

Rapture’s Rage has a misleading back cover. At no point is Renee afraid of Marshall, nor does he hate her for a significant length of time. Marshall does get upset on a few occasions with Renee, and she with him, but this is nowhere near the “fear” and “hatred” the back cover trailer would lead readers to believe.

A bigger issue for me is Ms. Smith’s use of a trope: jilted ex-lover of hero conspires with evil malefactors to attempt to injure or kill hero and heroine. This is a trope used by Ms. Smith not only in Rapture’s Rage, but at least four other books by Ms. Smith.

I do understand it’s difficult to come up with new material every time someone writes something. I find it difficult to come up with new things every time I write a review, which is why I don’t come up with new things! But it would have been nice to see Ms. Smith not use the same storyline on a frequent basis.


Ms. Smith is not an erotic author by any stretch of the imagination. Her love scenes are, at best, lukewarm.


Marshall and Renee are attacked by the Maguire brothers and their gang. Renee is shot, and Marshall is assaulted and imprisoned. Later, the Maguires are shot by a posse. Renee slaps Marshall during an argument.

The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Rage

Rapture’s Rage is not a 5 star book, but it fits solidly into the 4.0-4.25 range.

4.13 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.1


At sixteen, Renee Fontaine’s cascading black hair and soft, full curves drew the suitors of St. Louis like bees to spring’s first flower. But the dazzling beauty had eyes only for Marshall Westlake, the handsome lawyer who detested women and scorned love. Though his cold-hearted rudeness frightened her, the innocent young woman couldn’t get him out of her mind–and knew he was the one man she would ever want!

A disastrous marriage that ended in tragedy made Marshall swear never to care for a woman again. Yet he hungered for Renee’s caresses, thirsted for her pink-lipped kisses–and despised her for making him want to protect her. Unable to deny the pleasure of desire, he bent her to his will. In a stormy night of ecstasy, he assaulted her senses and stole her innocence, showing her the anguish and delight of…RAPTURE’S RAGE


Historical Romance Review: Ecstasy’s Fire by Rosalyn Alsobrook


The Book

When a book begins with a typo, that’s not a good sign as Ecstasy’s Fire by Rosalyn Alsobrook does. On the back blurb, the heroine is identified as Victoria Connors. In the book, she’s named VIRGINIA Connors. Not a good beginning.

The Characters and Setup

Ecstasy’s Fire begins with VIRGINIA–not Victoria–Connors, applying for and getting a job as a private tutor for Daniel Pearson’s, daughter. Mary is recuperating from an accident and is homebound. This decision by Virginia is not a random one. Virginia has applied for this position in hopes of finding dirt on Daniel’s uncle, Caleb Pearson.

Virginia strongly believes cheated her grandparents out of their home. This belief has mostly been fed to Virginia by her late grandmother, Essie Henderson Elder. Virginia applied for this job as a way to force Daniel to give up Valley Oaks–by any means necessary. This is the Pearson estate which she believes belongs to her family.

The Plot of Ecstasy’s Fire

Part One

As the book plods on, Virginia and Mary bond with each other. Meanwhile, Virginia has two men chasing her. One man is William Haught, brother to Amanda Haught, Daniel’s “girlfriend”, who hates Mary, and vice versa. The other man is her old friend Mark Langford. He hopes for more than friendship between himself and Virginia. However, there is one man who Virginia wants to be caught by. That is–much to her horror–Daniel.

Several things happen quickly in succession. Daniel and Virginia have their first kiss–and their second and their third. This causes Virginia to start to feel something other than the hatred she started out feeling for Daniel.

Part Two

She also learns a little more about the accident that severely injured Mary. The same accident killed Mary’s mother, but there’s more to this story. (More on that later.) Virginia also gains access to Daniel’s library, hoping to find information to discredit Caleb.Iin this regard, she fails. She finds only vituperative letters written by her grandmother to Caleb, but no other evidence.

The day after attending a party at the Haught estate–during which William Haught tries to rape Virginia but is stopped by Daniel and his fist. Virginia gets very drunk, and Daniel proposes marriage to to her. This is not inspired by love. Daniel candidly tells Virginia that he is incapable of loving any woman anymore. This has to do with his late wife. Their marriage will be mostly for Mary’s benefit, although it will not be a platonic one. Daniel does want other children and expects Virginia to bear them for him. So she agrees.

Part Three

On the morning of their wedding, Virginia wants to tell Daniel that she can’t go through with the marriage, but seeing Mary so happy about it, Virginia agrees to go ahead with the ceremony. At the ceremony, almost everyone is happy except Amanda Haught, who wanted Daniel to marry her; Mark Langford, who has unrequited feelings of love for Virginia, and Virginia herself, who dreads the wedding night.

When Daniel doesn’t try to assert his “husbandly rights” for several days after their marriage, Virginia doesn’t know what to think. Also on their honeymoon, Virginia falls down an abandoned well and has to be rescued from that and the snake that resides in it by Daniel.

After being rescued, Daniel and Virginia make love. It is then that she tells him that she loves him. The response she gets isn’t what she expects. Daniel tells Virginia that he will never love her, because he doesn’t want to give her a chance to hurt him the way his first wife, and Mary’s mother, Josie Kilburn, did to him. This saddens Virginia, but it also makes her fearful of what he’ll do if/when he finds out why she came to see him in the first place and if/when he discovers why she married him, a primary reason of which was to get Valley Oaks, the home she believes Caleb Pearson cheated her grandparents out of.

Part Four

That fear becomes a reality soon after their return from their honeymoon. Daniel meets up with Mark Langford, and after a few drinks, Langford tells Daniel the truth about who Virginia really is, who she’s related to, and why she came back to East Texas. Naturally, Daniel is virulently angry over being played again–there are similarities in what Virginia did to what Josie, Daniel’s first wife, did to him–and they have a nasty argument.

Virginia tries to explain, but Daniel isn’t in a listening mood. He later shoves her so hard she hits her head against the foot of their bed in their bedroom. It’s not intentional, but it is done nonetheless. Later that night, William Haught shows up claiming that Daniel is with Amanda and so William has come to offer his “comfort” to Virginia, which she refuses.

Later, Virginia decides to visit Mattie Williams, Caleb Pearson’s former housekeeper, to try to get some dirt on what Caleb allegedly did to her grandparents. The truth, however, is far different than what she has been brought up to believe. The truth: Joseph Elder was a compulsive gambler who lost a lot of his money.

After being threatened with violence, Elder sold Caleb Valley Oaks. Caleb only bought the estate with the intent of selling it back to Elder when he got his affairs in order, which never happened. In exchange for buying Valley Oaks, Elder made Caleb promise never to tell anyone the reasons why the transaction took place.

Part Five

Caleb also provided the family with food and other necessities when needed, which Elder claimed he got from working odd jobs. Elder also led everyone, especially Essie Elder, to believe that Caleb cheated him out of Valley Oaks, which is decidedly not the truth. Virginia doesn’t want to believe Mattie’s story but eventually has to face the truth of the matter.

Virginia hopes to be able to talk to Daniel and apologize and try to make amends with him. Daniel, however, has no interest in doing so, informing her by letter that he wants her out of Valley Oaks and never wants to see her nor will he let Mary see her again. Virginia refuses to leave until she sees Daniel and speaks to him and tries to explain her behavior, and she’s less inclined to leave once she discovers she’s pregnant with his baby.

We also learn the truth about what happened with Daniel’s first wife, Josie Kilburn. Josie only married Daniel to get back at one of her many lovers who left her for another man. After Mary was born, Josie decided she didn’t like being married and left Daniel for one of those former lovers. When Caleb died, Josie demanded large sums of money from Daniel, kidnapping Mary as part of her plan to get the money. While Josie held Mary captive, they were in a carriage accident which killed Josie instantly and severely injured Mary.

Conclusion of Ecstasy’s Fire

The book then ends somewhat lamely. Virginia refuses to leave Valley Oaks, and later, Daniel has an accident and develops amnesia. Virginia then takes care of him and conveniently takes advantage of the fact that he doesn’t remember what he was so enraged with her about.

The book ends with Amanda showing up and jarring Daniel’s memory again. Afterward, Daniel apologizes to Virginia for being mean to HER, then she apologizes for lying to him, tells him about the baby she’s carrying and they have their happily ever after. Kind of a lame ending.


Ecstasy’s Fire is really the first book I’ve read by Mrs. Alsobrook where there is even an effort to get into any emotional depth.


…But that is somewhat ruined by the fact that to get there, Mrs. Alsobrook had to base it on lies, foolish pride, and ego. Virginia is a cross character. sometimes I like her, but I hated what she started as. Daniel becomes less likable when he shoves Virginia and she hits her head.


Mrs. Alsobrook’s love scenes are reminiscent of old Harlequin Romance novels from the ’70s; they’re almost as cold as the location where I live: the Northeast. And, as always, Mrs. Alsobrook uses the EXACT same phrase in a love scene in all of her books.


William Haught tries to rape Virginia and is stopped by Daniel. Later, Daniel threatens to strangle Virginia before he shoves her into the bed. That’s the extent of the violence.

Bottom Line on Ecstasy’s Fire

Ecstasy’s Fire was another slow, laconic, book by Rosalyn Alsobrook that fails to fulfill any potential it had. It’s becoming a broken record, isn’t it?

3.5 Stars


Victoria Connors had returned to Valley Oaks for only one reason — to get back her land. And if it meant working for the incredibly handsome new owner to reclaim it, then she would. But she would not allow the dark-haired devil to work his magic on her. His deep blue eyes would not trap her in their depths, nor would his strong, muscular body lure her to his bed. And even though his kisses had made her fall deeper under his spell, she would not let him conquer her….

Daniel Pearson had been fooled once by love and vowed never to give any woman the power to betray him again. Yet the beautiful, brown-eyed angel with her sweet, honeyed lips and her soft, pliant body made him hungry with desire. Despite her resistance, Daniel wanted her more than he had ever wanted any woman. He was determined to take the unwilling beauty to the heights of passion, to show her the joys of being a woman, and to make her soul burn with Ecstasy’s Fire.


Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson

Tonight and Forever, Brenda Jackson, Pinnacle, 1995, Cover Artist TBD

Arabesque Romance


3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Brenda Jackson’s Tonight and Forever is her first published book and the first in her long-running series of the Madaris family. It’s a Pinnacle Arabesque romance from 1995, which are category romances but are not numbered, at least not to my knowledge.

Plot And Characters

Lorren Jacobs has left behind her past in California to return to her roots in Texas. After a bad marriage led to a bitter divorce, all she wants is to be with the people she loves and focus on her career of writing children’s books. At a party, the successful doctor Justin Madaris catches sight of her and is instantly smitten. Lorren is a beautiful woman, and receiving male attention is natural, but she wants none of that. Especially not from handsome men like Justin Madaris.

While Lorren had an unhappy marriage to a horrible man, Justin is a widower of ten years. His marriage was happy, but sadly, his wife is dead. Justin, however, is still in the realm of the living and is willing to live and love. He’s a mature man in touch with his feelings, not one who lets his feelings control him. However, he does have a sort of rosy, idealized version of his first wife and does keep a token from her. Usually, I’m not too fond of the dead wife trope, but I didn’t feel that Justin was mourning his wife to the exclusion of living in the present. He’s obviously attracted to Lorren and willing to have a relationship with her.

Justin pursues Lorren. Lorren is attracted to the good doctor, but she’s unsure. Her husband hurt her with lies about her inadequacy in the bedroom, which caused a hard shell to form around her as far as men are concerned. But Justin is gentle in his courtship. Lorren’s hesitancy could get a little off-putting, but if, as a reader, you enjoy a kind, sensitive hero who doesn’t force his way over the heroine, you’ll love Justin.

Parts from Lorren’s past make a reappearance to cause trouble. Justin, in a way, has to come to terms that the future is now with Lorren and not with a past that’s gone forever.

Final Analysis of Tonight and Forever

This is a fairly simple romance with a fairly simple plot. The writing is good, but what might one expect from a first book. What propels Tonight and Forever into a “better than good” zone is that it isn’t just a romance about the healing power of love. It’s a book about the power of love itself.

Jackson has since gone on to author over 100 works of fiction. I’m interested in reading more of her work, especially as she’s peppered this book with plenty of side characters you know are getting stories of their own.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

surrender to love

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 612
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers


The Book

Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epic romances. Alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s my least liked of her books I’ve read so far.

The Heroine

Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky. She hates convention. Why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?

Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers. A meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Everything was political. That attitude is very draining.

But the worst aspect about her is reading her inner monologues. They’re jam-packed with randomly italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.

Alexa is one of those wild heroines who courts danger and is susceptible to intense mood swings. I got the suspicion it was the author’s menopausal mania slipping in. (I’m feeling it myself these days.)

I got a strong sense of Alexa’s mental instability with her long internal rants. Or when she’s scratching the hero Nicholas’s face off. Or sobbing hysterically in front of him. Basically, every scene underscores her fluctuating moods.

The writing was erratic. For example, POV changes without warning, just within one paragraph.

And did I mention those italics?

The Plot

Alexa wants to be independent in a society constricted by stultifying rules. She meets Nicholas Dameron, who’s as wild as she is.

Their relationship is a tug-and-pull game that goes on for too long. There’s no consummation until page 337 of this 612-page brick, which ticked me off.

The tempo in Surrender to Love is more sluggish than the other Rogers books I’ve encountered, even the profoundly introspective The Wildest Heart. The pacing plods on.

It turned around after Part Two, but it was rough when a book doesn’t have not much happening for the first 200 pages. Alexa gets involved in a few scandals and then marries an older husband who brings her to the “Temple of Venus” to catch a naughty peep show or two.

She is soon widowed and goes to England to take society by storm.

Eventually, I saw where Rogers was going with the plot; it’s a tale of a woman who defies the stifling conventions of the Victorian Era through her overt sexuality.

I wondered if Rogers was ever a fan of Mexican telenovelas. The hidden family secrets, brutish hero, and spunky heroine reminded me of Alondra, which was about a “beautiful, rebellious girl, with very independent and progressive views for that time” (i.e., she has sex with other men besides the hero) who looks and acts just like Alexa.

rosemary rogers bodice rippers
The cast of the Mexican telenovela Alondra.

Random Observations on Surrender to Love

All the Viscounts of this-and-that running around got confusing. But at least they weren’t Dukes!

Nicholas Dameron was too nebulous, too enigmatic for a hero, which is unusual for me to criticize. Despite learning the history of his first wife, I didn’t understand him at all.

As always, Rogers drew upon themes of women’s liberation. This time it came on a bit thick.

Yes, Alexa, we get it. Being a woman in the 19th century was smothering and oppressive. However, she was part of the wealthy upper class, plus beautiful & widowed. Alexa had privileges that the average woman of her time did not share.

Alexa’s rash impetuosity was a major flaw. She never thought about her actions first. She was capricious and blamed her troubles on outside forces.

Nobody forced her to move to London and deal with the repressive London ton, but she had to have her “revenge” on Nicholas for ruining her in Ceylon.

Sure, Alexa, it was revenge you were after.

The world was that woman’s oyster, but she had a hankering for geoduck:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
That’s a shellfish. What did you think it was?

The first two hundred pages could have been condensed to half that amount. The ending was weird (although not the “trial” and a whipping scene, which was awesome). One moment Alexa is engaged to Charles, her consummation with him is glossed over, and then she ends up married to Nicholas.

Happy ending, I guess?

Final Analysis of Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love wasn’t Rosemary Roger’s best romance. She’s written far better.

Strong characterization, a staple of her works, is missing here. The heroine was a manic mess. Nicholas, the hero, was too distant and mysterious to be appreciated.

The villains weren’t exciting. Although I liked Alexa’s evil grandma, she was the Diet Coke of evil: just one calorie, not evil enough. Same opinion of the Marquess. But as long as I kept imagining Mexican actress Beatriz Sheridan as the evil Dowager Marchioness, I had a good time with that particular villainess.

Beatriz Sheridan

I would have given Surrender to Love a less than favorable rating but settled on three stars because the pluses slightly outweighed the negatives.

But, oh, those annoying italics made it difficult. 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.9


Under the midnight moon of Ceylon, on the night of her debutante ball at the Governor’s palace, Alexa Howard met her cousin, Nicholas Dameron. And in the sardonic curl of his hard, sensuous lips, in the commanding arrogance of his eyes, Alexa beheld the fierce, implacable passion that would render her helpless to the trembling slavery of desire…

Every kind of love a woman can be made to feel…
Within the golden softness of Alexa’s alluring gentility flowed the insatiable fires of an innocent woman’s awakening to lvoe — and the fury of a betrayed woman’s lust for revenge. Through the nightworlds of Naples, Rome, Paris and London, she was pursued by the man who heartlessly wanted her beauty. But her soul was possessed by the man whose touch was unbearable ecstasy, whose cruelty was ravishing torment, whose tenderness was passion’s fulfillment. Nicholas Dameron had taken her virtue and mocked her pride. But his love was the offering of every pleasure a woman has ever dared to dream of…

Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers