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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 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
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.6


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.

love's glorious gamble

Historical Romance Review: Love’s Glorious Gamble by Dana Ransom


Gloria Daniels was prepared for adventure–her first trip away from home was bound to be exciting. But nothing could have matched the true thrill that coursed through her young body when she first spotted Sterling Caulder. He may have had a reputation as a gambler, but he was like no man she had ever seen before. He walked with an elegant grace and carried an air of sophistication that drew Gloria into his spell. All she wanted at that moment was to experience his embrace, to feel his warm lips against her own, to have him sweep her off of her feet for a night of unbridled ecstasy!

Sterling Caulder made his living by making decent men part with their hard earned money. A gambler and a rogue, Sterling did his job without thinking of the consequences–at least until he met Gloria. Her soft gray eyes appealed to his only weakness–the desire to protect the innocent beauty from the dangers of the world. All he wanted to do was to run his fingers through her flaxen curls, to caress her with a passion that knew no bounds. Making Gloria his own would be a risk, but for a night in her arms he was willing to chance it all in Love’s Glorious Gamble



The Book

In Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble a young and naïve blonde named Gloria Daniels seeks to avenge her father’s death. She transforms herself into the vixenish redhead, Glory Dane. As Glory, she’ll cheat men out of their money and seek out retribution. Meanwhile, her mentor, and sometimes-savior, Sterling Caulder, a notorious gambler, fights his attraction to her. Sterling’s been hurt by love in the past. Is Gloria the woman who will mend his heart?

The Plot

Here in Love’s Glorious Gamble, the hero is no overbearing bully. He’s a charismatic rogue who shares a great, supportive relationship with the heroine. The heroine is courageous and plucky, all alone in a world that holds mystery and despair.

A girl of intelligence and wit, Glory devises a complicated trap in which to ensnare her enemies. Everyone is hiding the truth to some extent in this tangled tale of vengeance.

My Opinion

Love’s Glorious Gable was published in 1988 under Zebra‘s Heartfire imprint. It is an entertaining, emotional romance. This book should merit at least 4 stars, especially by the low-quality standards of Zebra romances.

So why does my official rating stand at only 3 stars?

Two reasons.

Reason #1

Dana Ransom (real name Nancy Gideon) has written some of my all-time favorite books–not just romances–in particular, Rebel Vixen and Dakota Destiny. Other thrilling epics are Temptation’s Trail and Dakota Promises.

I’ve never hated any of Ransom’s works I’ve come across, although some have drawn conflicted emotions, namely, Alexandra’s Ecstasy and its predecessor, The Pirate’s Captive.

Love’s Glorious Gamble falls short when contrasted with my personal favorites. It’s unfair to make such comparisons, I know. I went in with immense expectations only to find an entertaining, above-average love story.

That doesn’t sound bad at all, does it?

Reason #2

I had to take a full star rating off this book because Sterling is still madly in love with his dead fiancée, Eliza. So much, that even in bed, he calls Glory by Eliza’s name…twice. Yikes!

The dead wife/dead lover-fetish trope is a giant pet peeve and a major no-no for me… Uggh!

I don’t mind a hero who believes he is in love with another living woman and then falls truly in love with the heroine. I can even tolerate a cheater if he’s redeemed. It’s that when the heroine has to compete with a perfect ghost for the hero’s affections, I tend to nope out. 

I really wish that had not been such a significant part of Sterling’s background. With any other author, this would have been a complete deal-breaker for me. However, due to Ransom’s exceptional writing, I avoided tossing the book on the floor and was able to continue.

Final Analysis of Love’s Glorious Gamble

As I said, that one plot point did color my final opinion of Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble. If I don’t dwell on it, I can honestly say that, while not perfect, this Zebra Heartfire is worthy of a positive review.

But it did happen, so that tempers my overall enjoyment, although certainly not enough to hate it. I just wouldn’t put it on my Desert-Island-Keeper list.

However, if you’re a more open-minded reader who appreciates the power of love’s ability to heal wounds and also looking for a Zebra that doesn’t suck, then this may be an old-school romance you’d like to explore.

3 Stars

taken by you

Historical Romance Review: Taken By You by Connie Mason


He is Morgan Scott, an English nobleman once held captive on the high seas by the brutal Spanish master and crew who murdered his family. Now he sails the seas as a British privateer, taking his revenge by attacking and plundering Spanish ships.

She is Luca Santiego, forced from the shelter of a convent and destined for a marriage arranged by her father. When her ship is attacked by pirates, she dons the garb of a nun and prays for mercy. Yet amid the flames of the sinking ship, the blue-eyed captain is seized by an unbidden passion for the beauty who kneels before him. Driven by a wicked desire to claim her as his spoils in an act of vengeance against the Spanish, he is torn by an overwhelming response to Luca’s sweet innocence, and aches with need for her. Yet he vows he will have her only when his tender kisses bring about her willing surrender to a magnificent, undeniable love.



I read Connie Mason’s Taken By You back when it was released in early 1996, so my memory of it is fuzzy. I do recall the ridiculous attempts at Spanish. What kind of name is Luca Santiego for a heroine? Is she supposed to be a Spanish convent-bred noblewoman or a hard-as-nails Mario Puzo mobster? It’s both bad Spanish & bad Italian. Lucia (de) Santiago would be apropos for a name.

The Setup

Connie Mason’s Peggy Hill-like “espanole” skills aside, there wasn’t much to remember about this romance.

The other aspect I recall is when Luca cut her hair short. She did this to pose as a nun so the English pirates wouldn’t ravish her. The cover got that wrong and things like that irritate me. It’s like some industry rule states no woman can have short hair on the cover of a historical romance novel. (Maybe on a few old Harlequin Historicals).

Even if she’s wearing a dress and has giant, heaving bosoms–nope! Short hair equals a dude. So, she can’t have that.

Morgan Scott is a British pirate–pardon me–privateer, who captures Luca’s ship. Morgan is seeking vengeance against the Spanish who killed his family. He takes Luca captive and they have a tug-of-war relationship of hatred and attraction.

A Derivative Plot

Taken By You was a typical enemies-to-lovers/revenge romance with plenty of:

Heroine: I hate you, you’re my enemy!

Hero: I want you. You’re my enemy!

Heroine: Let’s do it like bunnies!

Hero: Oh, no, you’re still my enemy!

Heroine: I love you!

Followed by a convenient plot resolution.

Besides, I liked this book better when it was called The Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee.

Final Analysis of Taken By You

Taken By You was not a fun or spectacular romance.

Connie Mason fans know what they’re getting when they read her works. Even so, this was a bit subpar for my tastes. I prefer her Leisure/Dorchester books as opposed to her Avons. They were dumber and not as finely edited, but spicier and a heck of a lot more fun.

2 Stars