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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: , , , , , , , ,
Dangerous Obsession natasha peters

Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Don Stivers
Book Series: Culhane Duo #2
Published by: Ace
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 630
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters‘ first epic bodice ripper romance, Savage Surrender.

However, don’t feel you need to read one to be comfortable reading the other. The relationship between the two books is not revealed until midway through this 630-page epic.

The Set-Up

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans twelve years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman.

American Seth Garrett has business to deal with in Russia. There, he will meet Rhawnie, and there begins a rocky love story that will span continents and years.

The Plot and the Characters

The Heroine, Rhawnie

Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, to herself! Rhawnie even lies on her (near) deathbed!

She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife, and a whole chicken!

When caught red-handed, she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this, Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter, [Note: she was 7 when I originally wrote this review] who lives by the motto: “Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.”

Rhawnie is not a mere mortal. She is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, and card cheat, and a baroness.

Men duel and die over her. She is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, the savior of an orphan, and a wronged woman.

Last and most of all, Rhawnie is the love object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.”

The Hero, Seth

The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work, and it took me a long time to warm up to him.

He’s no Sean Culhane or Duke Domenico, but he’s both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie’s virginity in a card game but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. Her lecherous, older uncle then, in angry retaliation, beats and kicks Rhawnie while Seth just sort of stands there.

Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her–even though he’s in the next room and can hear what’s going on!

He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress.

And the evil Seth inflicts upon Rhawnie in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice that never occurs.

But…he does properly declare himself at the end (if that redemption/groveling arc matters to you). He gives himself completely to Rhawnie.

Seth is not perfect, but neither is Rhawnie, so together, they are perfect.

The Good and the Bad

Dangerous Obsession is written in the first person, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances.

However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and Natasha Peters could have cut it 75 to 50 pages shorter.

Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth’s missing sister that takes them through the American west.

They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river. Seth gets injured, and Rhawnie nurses him back to life. Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment of camphor, cannabis, and caviar, no less)!

They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures; she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, gets addicted to laudanum, gets rescued…

And before you know it–whew! It’s over.

Final Analysis of Dangerous Obsession

Natasha Peters’ Dangerous Obsession was so close to perfect. It’s such a shame that, like so many bodice rippers, in the end, it falters under its own hefty weight.

Nevertheless, I’m rounding my initial 4.5-star rating up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis:

She was daring and defiant; tender and wanton. She was child; she was woman. she was Rhawnie.

From a starving gypsy in Russia to an exotic demi-mondaine in Paris to a countess in Bavaria to a sensation in New York from a survivor in the western wilderness to a card shark in San Francisco — such were the heights and depths of existence for Rhawnie.

Her wit, her cunning, her beauty, the sensuous delights she performs to well protect her even as they cause her agony and shame. For deep in her soul is a love for a man, a man who has brought her only degradation and heartbreak.

Wherever she goes, whatever she does, Rhawnie cannot escape Seth Garrett. The constant ache for his arms, the ever present need for the fires of passion he alone can ignite, and his relentless pursuit of her have made her his prisoner. Across continents fleeing danger and death, Rhawnie runs…from this man…from herself…until she knows that with a love so powerful, a love so shameless, she can do nothing but surrender!

DANGEROUS OBSESSION by NATASHA PETERS
liar's moon heather graham

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

category romance
Liar's Moon by Heather Graham
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #159
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 286
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Liar’s Moon, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme by Heather Graham is an overwrought foray into romantic suspense.

There’s intrigue, murder, and a long-ago love affair between a teenage girl and a much older, close family friend.

Events lead to a dramatic and happy conclusion in this so-so-category romance.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Tracy Kuger has come to New York for her father’s funeral. Who was her father? He was Jesse Kuger, Liar’s Moon’s version of The Beatle’s John Lennon. Only in Liar’s Moon, these Beatles consisted of Jesse, Leif, Tiger, and Sam, and they called themselves The Limelights.

(Incidentally, this was also the name of a string of nightclubs run by entrepreneur and Ecstasy kingpin Peter Gatien. The most (in)famous of the clubs was located in an old, converted church in Manhattan. Lots of memories for me from the mid-1990s! Today it’s a gym. Do techno dance clubs even exist anymore? I’m old, so I don’t know about these things.)

Tracy’s father was inexplicably killed, and his murderer was shot dead by police in a subsequently prompt fashion.

Tracy’s instincts tell her this was not the work of a mere maniacal fan.

Leif Johnson was Jesse’s best friend. Years before the book starts, a “sexually precocious” yet virginal Tracy threw herself at Leif, and he being the mature Rock Star that he was, just couldn’t say no to his BFF’s daughter.

Tragedy and circumstances forced Tracy into exile to Switzerland for seven years. The Tracy who returns from Europe to bury her father is now a thriving and (supposedly) independent businesswoman.

The Plot

The plot may be uncomfortable for readers who dislike significant age differences. Tracy was 17 years old when she “seduced” Leif, who was in his late 30s. But she came on to him, not the other way around! You can’t blame the guy, right?

Complicating matters is that Tracy became pregnant from the fling. As a result, her parents conspired to make Tracy believe her baby died at birth.

Then they shipped the baby off to Leif, who raised his son with his wife Celia, whom he deeply loved. The reader knows from the opening pages about Leif’s happy marriage, even as his dreams are haunted by images of an alluring Tracy in the moonlight.

Leif (with a name like Leif, you’d think he’d be a blond, but no, he’s a dark and hirsute stud) is concerned for Jesse’s children’s safety. He, too, suspects the killing was not an isolated incident. Jesse’s 20-year-old son Jamie is an up-and-coming musician whom Leif has taken under his wing.

And of course, there is Tracy (an independent woman, remember?), who does not need Leif’s role as her–ahem–guardian. But guard her he will, whether she likes it or not.

Leif and Tracy are still hot for one another, and passion rears its purple head. All the while, danger lurks as the pair search for clues to the mystery.

Someone had reason to murder Jesse, who wasn’t the saintly icon everyone painted him as being. Assembled together is a cast of assorted characters, with members of the old band, friends, and family forming a list of potential killers.

In the end, major revelations come to light, the bad guy’s identity is revealed, and he/she receives their punishment.

The lovers get their happy-ever-after ending.

However, the conclusion left me feeling like I’d been forced to swallow a pint of sour, curdled milk.

My Opinion

Liar’s Moon has “sort of” an icky plot with a big age gap between the main characters. But that wasn’t the icky part of it.

What skeeved me out was Leif’s role as the best friend of Tracy’s father. He was practically an uncle to Jesse’s kids.

Even worse is how Leif rides roughshod over Tracy. He confronts her with the truth about their “dead” baby in a sadistically cruel manner. Leif dismisses Tracy’s pain over the perceived loss, then forcefully demands Tracy be his wife.

Finally, Leif introduces Tracy to her own child as the boy’s new stepmother. A cheerful epilogue doesn’t make up for Leif’s atrocious behavior.

Final Analysis of The Book

Liar’s Moon was an angsty read, for sure. Regardless, the unheroic hero’s faults were too numerous to overlook. I mean, how could Graham name the main male character Leif and not make him blond? Unforgivable.

Still, Heather Graham is a solid author, even when writing for a restrictive category line. I can’t blame her for trying.

Liar’s Moon is an alright story that could have been better if the hero hadn’t been such a pompous and domineering jerk.

2.95 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

She’d been a wild teenager willing to risk anything for revenge. But when she seduced Leif Johnston, she hadn’t counted on falling in love…hadn’t believed her family would intervene and sweep her off to Switzerland.

Seven years later, Tracy Kuger was a successful, independent woman. But her determination to find her father’s killer would carry her right back into New York’s deceiving limelight…into the treacherous bosom of her powerful family…into Leif’s lean, hungry arms. Passion and peril bound them together even as doubts and dangerous secrets tore them apart.

Tormented by the past, could Tracy face the truth and embrace the future—a love born under a liar’s moon?

LIAR’S MOON by HEATHER GRAHAM
the sheik

Classic Romance Review: The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

 classic romance
The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull
Rating: five-stars
Published: November 10, 1919
Illustrator: N/A
Book Series: Sheik Duo #1
Genres: Classic Romance, Contemporary Romance, Bodice Ripper, Harem Romance, Forced Seduction
Pages: 296
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Classic Romance Review: The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Sheik by Edith M. Hull, published in 1919, is as influential to the modern romance genre as Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps, more so.

The salacious book was a blockbuster of a success, despite its many detractors. While some modern readers may cringe at its depiction of women, sexual roles, and racial attitudes, The Sheik remains a compelling read one hundred years after its publication.

the sheik

The Sheik: The Grandmother of Bodice Rippers

“Shall I make you care? Shall I make you love me? I can make women love me when I choose.”

This year, 2022, is the 50th anniversary of Kathleen E. Woodwiss’ the Flame and the Flower, the first “modern romance novel.” The roots of modern romance go back further than 1972, however.

Although Pride and Prejudice and other works by Jane Austen were critiques of manners and social mores, the love stories were at the heart and center. For that reason, her books are considered both as literature and among the first romance novels.

As far as I’m concerned, Jane Austen and all her imitators–Georgette Heyer included–didn’t influence the modern historical genre as The Sheik did.

Oh, I liked the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy just fine. I don’t obsess over it as many do. Charlotte Bronte’s tale of Jane Eyre was far more to my liking, anyway. Jane Eyre, however, is more of an ancestor to Gothic romance.

the sheik grandmother of the bodice ripper.

The First Modern Romance Novel?

“What I have I keep, until I tire of it–and I have not tired of you yet.”

For the kind of romances I enjoy, their roots lie with Edith Maude Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik. It is the grandmother of the bodice ripper. If not for the closed-door bedroom scenes, this book would have fit right in with the romances penned in the 1970s.

In 1921, the silent film adaptation of the novel starring Agnes Ayres came out. It catapulted Rudolph Valentino’s career into movie stardom. I recall watching the film as a teen and practically swooning over the fantastic tale.

Decades later, I finally got around to reading the novel.

the sheik

The Characters and the Plot

He had seen her, had wished for her, and had taken her, and once in his power it had amused him to break her to his hand.

British-born Diana Mayo has it all: fashionable looks, wealth, and a multitude of male admirers. She’s young, thoroughly modern, and fiercely independent. If someone tells her not to do something, she considers it a dare.

Filled with boredom, the wild Diana travels to Algeria to seek adventure.

And she finds it in the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who kidnaps her and whisks her off to his desert oasis.

Between the two will be fierce, passion-filled clashes filled. Diana is a contemporary-minded woman who demands equality from her peers. Even so, she cannot resist the allure of the savage, almost primitive male who seeks to dominate her.

When first published, there was nothing like this book.

the sheik

Intriguing Gender Dynamics

Some historians have noted that during “conservative” eras, the idealized feminine form becomes more “traditional.” Typically, in times of social transformation, she is perceived to be more fluid.

In the 1960’s natural hair, short skirts, and slim figures, a la model Twiggy or Mia Farrow, reigned.

In the 1980s, the style was big hair, full lips, and 36-24-36 figures like Kelly LeBrock and Cindy Crawford.

The 1920s was a post War society with women in politics and the popularization of the motion picture. Ideas of sex, gender, and sexual mores were radically changed from the rigid Victorian/Edwardian and Gilded Age Eras on both sides of the Atlantic. Hair was bobbed, hemlines were raised, and large breasts were out-of-fashion.

The Sheik is a product of its time, with Hassan noting:

But the emotion that this girl’s uncommon beauty and slender boyishness had aroused in him had not diminished during the months she had been living in his camp.

The omniscient narrator constantly refers to Diana’s boyish figure and her as a splendid example of a “garcon manque,” a French term for tomboy. That was the old-fashioned term for girls who “behave” like and hang around boys.

It made for a fascinating sexual dynamic that was only flirted with and never really delved deeply into.

the sheik

The Sheik, A Controversial Novel

To say this is a controversial book is an understatement. Because it was such a phenomenal hit, critics could not ignore it, and they were divided in their opinions. Unlike, say, Fifty Shades of GreyThe Sheik cannot be dismissed for lack of quality.

The New York Times labeled the book as “shocking” but written with “a high degree of literary skill.” It was considered “salacious” and “tawdry.”

“What do you expect of a savage? When an Arab sees a woman that he wants he takes her. I only follow the customs of my people.”

If there was contention about this book 123 years ago, it’s practically obscene today and viewed as problematic. It has been accused of promoting part of rape culture, and it reeks of colonial attitudes.

There may be merit to discussing those arguments, as nothing exists in a vacuum. Nevertheless, I say, “Yes. And?” Fiction demands the freedom to write from any perspective. If it is a story worth telling, the story will be told.

the sheik

My Opinion

“If he killed me he could not kill my love!”

From its initial publication continuing to this day, The Sheik remains scandalous. It was an immediate bestseller, yet it received no respect from critics. The novel was labeled “poisonously salacious” by the Literary Review. It was even banned from some communities.

And it was a huge sensation, launching a subgenre of desert romances, several sequels, film adaptations, and Rudolph Valentino’s career.

The influence of The Sheik on romance is undeniable. For many readers, it still strikes a chord today. Despite Diana’s position as a kidnapping victim, there is a strong theme of female power and independence.

Even so, The Sheik gives a picture of the social order of its time. It captured the contemporary attitudes toward colonialism. Perhaps worse, The Sheik portrayed sexual dominance as a means to love.

the sheik

Final Analysis of The Sheik

E. M. Hull’s desert epic made me feel like a 12-year-old young girl discovering romance. For me, The Sheik was a thrilling experience! It’s pure entertainment, a rush from start to finish. I loved the film; the book was even better.

Without this romance, I don’t know if bodice-rippers or Mills & Boon romances, or the Harlequin Presents line would have ever existed. As stated, The Sheik is grandmother of the bodice ripper.

As for the naysayers?

Perhaps it’s good advice not to take fiction so seriously.

The Sheik is unreality. A dark fantasy. An erotic nightmare. Perhaps a little of both.

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

Synopsis:

Diana Mayo is young, beautiful, wealthy–and independent. Bored by the eligible bachelors and endless parties of the English aristocracy, she arranges for a horseback trek through the Algerian desert. Two days into her adventure, Diana is kidnapped by the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who forces her into submission. Diana tries desperately to resist but finds herself falling in love with this dark and handsome stranger.

Only when a rival chieftain steals Diana away does the Sheik realize that what he feels for her is more than mere passion. He has been conquered–and risks everything to get her back. The power of love reaches across the desert sands, leading to the thrilling and unexpected conclusion.

THE SHEIK BY EDITH MAUD HULL
raven

Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol

Synopsis:

Named for the bird of night, she vowed to fly free and soar on the wings of passion. Once, she had been Marie Celeste Ravenne, a shy and lovely free spirit plucked from her Caribbean island home to become the ward of a cruel, scheming English nobleman. But now she was Raven – a fiery temptress whose daring spirit astonished all who sailed the sea…whose sumptuous body excited the lust of the powerful men who longed to claim her, to use her, perhaps to kill her… and whose aching woman’s heart led her across elegant ballrooms and raging oceans in search of the dashing rebel chieftain who had won her love forever. 

RAVEN by SHANA CARROL

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer)–not to be confused with Evelyn Rogers’ Raven— is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.

Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.

The Plot

Part One, Raven by Shana Carrol

The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.

Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.

The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.

raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Arrow Books edition (UK),
cover artist unknown

Part Two, Raven by Shana Carrol

Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.

Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).

Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.

In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.

As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.

A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.

Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.

Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.

Part Three, Raven by Shana Carrol

Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?

Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.

More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.

The Shana Carrol team created a frustrating read with Raven. The first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.

Raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Sheridan Books

My Opinion by Shana Carrol

I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.

I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.

He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a man who deserved her.

Final Analysis of Raven

Raven was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.

As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.

If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.

I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it.

3.49 Stars

Sweet Savage love

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Unknown, H. Tom Hall
Book Series: Ginny & Steve #1, Morgan & Challenger Saga #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 636
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Sweet Savage Love, The (Other) Mother of Romance

Where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre: the modern romance novel.

Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation. Sweet Savage Love showed readers that “good” women could have passionate sex with a hero outside of marriage and also have passionate sex with men other than the hero.

Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the primary setting for Sweet Savage Love.

This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.

sweet-savage-love-hall
Sweet Savage Love, Alternative Cover version, Avon, Tom Hall cover art

The Hero & The Heroine

Our heroine Virginia “Ginny” Brandon, is the half-French, half-American convent-raised daughter of a US Senator. She has fiery copper hair and flashing, slanted green eyes.

Ginny loves to dance like a gypsy, kicking her legs up in the air, her skirts swirling around her. You will hear this repeated constantly throughout the book.

Steve Morgan is this romance’s–ahem–hero. He is a darkly-tanned former Union soldier with deep blue eyes and black hair.

Rogers modeled him after Clint Eastwood, among others. I also got a Gregory Peck vibe from “Duel In the Sun” about Steve.

Imagine the most macho, virile man you possibly can. Picture ovulating women throwing themselves at his feet while low-T males shrink in self-awareness as that super-male confidently swaggers by.

That imaginary ideal isn’t fit to be a pimple sprouting hair on Steve Morgan’s muscular chest.

Steve is a soldier, a spy, a cowboy, and a Comanche ally. He’s a wealthy ranchero of mixed American and Spanish-Mexican descent. He is muy hombre, as we shall see.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

The Epic Plot

Steve the Stud Meets Ginny the Dancing Gypsy

The lovely Virginia Brandon returns to the United States from France, where she had been raised in a convent. Her widowed father has remarried a gorgeous woman young woman. Much, much younger.

Ginny’s stepmother, Sonya, is quite familiar with Steve “The Stud” Morgan. They shared a passionate night together, where Steve practically raped her. Of course, Sonya enjoyed his illicit forced seduction. There are few women who haven’t fallen prey to Steve’s animal magnetism.

A scandal ensues from Sonya and Steve’s dalliance and Steve finds himself potentially facing the death penalty. He agrees to act as a spy in exchange for his life. It’s suspected that Senator Brandon is up to traitorous acts.

Senator Brandon has interests in Mexico, particularly with the controlling government of Emperor Maximillian. Steve–who is against the French–is charged with accompanying the Brandons across the country. He plans to draw them into a trap with the help of some Bandidos. The plot takes off from here.

Steve kidnaps Ginny, and though she fights him like a hellion, she–like all women with a pulse–falls for his ultra studliness. Circumstances find Ginny and Steve caught in a compromising situation and they are forced to marry.

But do you think marriage will stop Esteban Alvarado (Steve’s Spanish name) from being el tigere that he is? No way. He’s kissing broads in front of his new wife and banging other women on the side.

sweet savage love bodice ripper
Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

Two Strong-Willed, Beautiful Idiots

The best part of the story is when Ginny and Steve are trekking through the Western wilderness. But Rogers doesn’t like her characters being happy. She throws everything imaginable at them.

The action takes us to Mexico, where Ginny and Steve are separated multiple times. There are lies, deceptions, and double-crosses. Mexican soldiers violate Ginny. A deranged doctor tortures Steve…and then some!

Ginny believes Steve is dead, so she becomes the willing mistress of a young señor.

When she finds out Steve is alive, she goes in search of him. Steve believes Ginny betrayed him, so he despises her, even as he lusts after her ravishing body. Lack of communication and big misunderstandings rule the day.

Oh, will these crazy kids just get over themselves and stay together forever?

My Opinion

Hablo Espanole?

One thing I recall about Sweet Savage Love is that much of the Spanish written was almost gibberish. This was a common occurrence in a lot of 1970s and 1980s romances, be they Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers. Rosemary Rogers’ good friend Shirlee Busbee had that same issue in her book While Passion Sleeps.

Spanish is, I think, the third most common language on Earth. It should have been easy for a former secretary like Rogers to get an English-to-Spanish dictionary and copy down a few words.

Ah, well, that’s a minor gripe.

rosemary rogers bodice ripper

Fast and Furious

The book is divided into sections and begins with a long prologue. It’s a hefty brick of a novel with words in tiny font. Thankfully, Rogers’ prose isn’t as purple and verbose as Woodiwiss’, so the pace is fast.

Still, Rogers has a penchant for repeating descriptions. Mentions of Ginny’s coppery hair and slanted green eyes and Steve’s lean, muscular figure seemed to be on every page. It got tedious.

Once the book got rolling, Sweet Savage Love was a gripping read. Rogers threw so much trauma at her characters; sometimes, I didn’t want to look!

This novel is not for the squeamish, sensitive reader. I first read this at 13, which I think was too young to truly appreciate the grand scope of this tawdry bodice ripper. Sweet Savage Love scared me. I couldn’t conceive heroes and heroines could act the way Ginny and Steve did.

It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I could handle that kind of behavior because my perspectives on romance novels had expanded to be open to new experiences.

sweet savage love rosemary rogers
Sweet Savage Love, Harlequin, 2014

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Love

Sweet Savage Love is a seminal piece of fiction, a lusty saga all lovers of old-school romance should read.

I wouldn’t rank it the most incredible bodice ripper ever, however. Christine Monson’s Stormfire, Teresa Denys’ The Flesh and the Devil and The Silver Devil, and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire are better written and engaging.

In my opinion, Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies is her best book, with more sensitive characterization and deeper themes. It was just more fun than Sweet Savage Love.

The protagonists were wishy-washy and emotional, despite being adults. (At least Steve was a full-grown adult. I think Ginny was 16 or 17 in the beginning.) Steve was a slut. Ginny was a Mary Sue, too beautiful and desirable.

The immature duo couldn’t decide if they wanted to be together or not. The only thing these two could agree on was that they liked banging.

Even so, I enjoyed this overall. Ginny and Steve were larger-than-life people in a story that was larger-than-life.

Sweet Savage Love is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a thrilling co-progenitor of the modern romance genre.

I’d rate this bodice ripper between 4 and 4.5 stars. Although it’s not without flaws, I’d say it does merit a high mark.

4.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis:

A tale of human emotion that lays bare the heights and depths of love, passion and desire in old and new worlds…as we follow Virginia Brandon, beautiful, impudent and innocent, from the glittering ballrooms of Paris to the sensuality of life in New Orleans to the splendor of intrigue-filled Mexico.

A tale of unending passion, never to be forgotten…the story of Virginia’s love for Steven Morgan, a love so powerful that she will risk anything for him…even her life.

SWEET SAVAGE LOVE by ROSEMARY ROGERS
passion's bride

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Bride (aka The Captain’s Lady) by Jo Goodman

book review historical romance
Passion's Bride; aka (Captain's Lady, The) by Jo Goodman
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Ray Kursar
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 528
Format: eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Bride (aka The Captain’s Lady) by Jo Goodman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

This review is of Passion’s Bride, aka The Captain’s Lady by Jo Goodman.

The Plot

The book begins in 1809, where the fledgling American navy hopes to enlist the services of the pirate Alex Danty to help sink British ships. One person, Captain Tanner Cloud, this book’s hero, knows Danty won’t help. Cloud knows this because he knows Alex Danty and knows that SHE–the heroine of the book–was already attacking British ships for her own personal reasons. Primarily to kill a certain Captain Conrad Travers for revenge.

Alex and Cloud become lovers, both knowing that Alex will escape him if she gets the chance. She does, and for two years, they are apart. Cloud later arrests Alex, who is charged with inciting war with Britain. However, she would be let go if she agreed to help the Americans fight the British and help enlist Jean Lafitte to help, which Alex won’t do.

Alex is broken out of prison by Cloud, who is then arrested himself for springing her. Alex, her crew, and his crew work together to get Cloud out of jail. It comes out that the order to jail Alex didn’t come from President James Madison but one of his surrogates, acting without Madison’s knowledge. That scandal is later exposed.

While at sea, The Dark Lady, Alex’s ship, is damaged badly in a storm. She and one of her crewmen are thrown overboard, and for a spell, Cloud thinks Alex is dead. He later discovers that is not the case when Travers brings Alex to Barataria, Jean Lafitte’s island. A final confrontation ensues between Cloud and Travers. Cloud kills Travers, and later, Cloud and Alex have their Happily Ever After.

captains lady
The Captain’s Lady, Jo Goodman, 1998 re-issue

Upside

Alex and Cloud are two of the strongest characters I’ve read in any book recently, and possibly ever. Alex does not ask to become Captain Danty. She does it, and if others don’t like it, too bad. She is strong and single-minded in her pursuit of the villain, Travers. Even though Cloud doesn’t like what Alex’s goals are–and tries to dissuade her at first–he eventually realizes that if he truly loves her, Alex has to love all of her, even the parts he disagrees with. That is highly unusual, as most romance novel heroes–through either words or actions–aren’t always supportive of the women they claim to love dearly.

Downside

The beginning of Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady is strong. The ending is strong. The middle, however, is a bit mushy. I also didn’t like the ending, where Cloud had to fight Travers for Alex. Although to be fair, Alex had been thrown overboard, suffered exposure, been in ocean water, and had been physically abused by Travers before the final confrontation, and therefore was in no condition to end Travers’ miserable life.

However, having Cloud–the man–kill Travers instead of allowing Alex that freedom kind of undoes the female empowerment mantra that Ms. Goodman was striving for throughout the book.

Sex

There are quite a few sex scenes, but most are relatively mild. Readers looking for hot sex, Ms. Goodman’s not your author.

Violence

Whippings, stabbings, assault, and battery all occur here. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line

Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady is a very good, emotional book. With a few tweaks, it could have been even better.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 3.8
the kings pleasure

Historical Romance Review: The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake

historical romance review
The King's Pleasure by Shannon Drake, Heather Graham
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1996
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Book Series: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 382
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Shannon Drake‘s (aka Heather Graham) The King’s Pleasure is set amid the intense medieval backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death. It’s a solid romance in a historical age that always grips my attention.

theking'spleasurecover

Captive of The King

The story begins with a prologue. The heroine, Danielle, is hiding from her husband in an inn as he searches for her. He’s under the impression that she’s there to have a tryst with a fellow Frenchman. Her husband is a Scottish knight, Adrien MacLachlan, who’s pledged to the English King. Danielle is not there to have an assignation with another man. However, she is there against her husband and his King’s wishes.

Adrien confronts Danielle, and the two have a fiery argument that ends in them making love. They look back at the stormy past that preceded this encounter.

Thus we’re flung back nineteen years prior. King Edward III of England is laying siege to Aville in France. The castle is defended by the resident Countess Lenore and her retinue. A young page, our hero, Adrien, at age 10, discovers a weak point in the walls. This allows the English King to breach it. King Edward takes triumphant control of the castle. He also takes the Countess as his captive back to England after enjoying a few nights of passion with her.

The brief yet intense affair culminates in a pregnancy. Lenore is returned to France, along with their daughter Danielle, as Edward’s vassal. Danielle grows to be more beautiful than her mother. When her mother dies years later, she is made the King’s ward and placed under his absolute control.

Torn between two worlds, the temperamental and fiercely independent Danielle finds it difficult to adjust.

Wed By the King’s Command

As time passes, events form a path to our protagonists’ destinies. On several occasions, Danielle meets Adrien, now fully grown and made a knight. Danielle finds him arrogant and unlikeable. Dislike turns into hatred when she discovers it was he who enabled Edward to take her beloved home. Adrien thinks Danielle is shrewish and detestable.

The King plans to give Danielle’s hand in marriage to Adrien in gratitude for all of Adrien’s victories in battle. Adrien, on the other hand, would prefer Lady Joanna, the daughter of an Earl.

The onset of the Bubonic Plague will change things drastically. Both Danielle and Joanna suffer from the horrific disease, although only one of them makes it out alive.

Danielle finds herself an unwilling pawn in the game of royalty. She is forced to obey the King’s order to marry her enemy Adrien MacLachlan. Danielle hates him for political and personal reasons and vows she always will. While Danielle believes she has a duty to serve the French King, how can she do so? Especially now that she’s bound to a man under service to the English crown?

Intrigue, betrayal, passion, and romance mark the rest of the book. Danielle and Adrien are a fiery combination despite their antagonism toward each other (or, more likely, because of it). Their love-making is explosive. How can they reconcile their differences while war rages on, both literally and figuratively, within their hearts?

Final Analysis of The King’s Pleasure

As I always find when reading medieval romances I enjoy, it’s the history that draws me in. I appreciated the attention to detail and authenticity of the time period. Shannon Drake’s writing is strong. She excels in writing love scenes. The road to getting the actual love was a rocky one, however. Danielle and Adrien enjoy fighting for fighting’s sake. It seemed to act as a sexual stimulant for the two!

I also could have done without Adrien’s back story of his engagement to another woman. Fortunately, he didn’t dwell over much on the loss of his first love, as Shannon Drake/ Heather Graham has made her heroes do in the other books.

Besides being stubborn and misguided, Danielle and Adrien were well-matched, and their HEA was believable. I can imagine them spending many years within their castle walls arguing and then quickly patching matters up for wild make-up sex.

4.24 Stars

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

Synopsis

From the bestselling author of Tomorrow the Glory comes a captivating new novel that sweeps from Scotland’s untamed highlands to the Tower of London and war-torn France. Here is the powerful story of two people destined to love in a divided land.

Danielle D’Aville, the ward of Edward III, was sworn to obey the King’s order to marry her enemy Adrien MacLachlan, the legendary Scot who masterminded the fall of Danielle’s beloved home, Aville. Suddenly she was the arrogant knight’s reluctant wife, pledged to a marriage neither desired. But swept off to his castle in the Scottish highlands, and into his strong embrace, Danielle was soon possessed by a raging passion for the husband she had vowed to despise.

The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake
Rangoon pino

Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

book review historical romance
Rangoon by Christine Monson
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Pino
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Christine Monson‘s second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor from her previous romance Stormfire. That bodice ripper was legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance.

Rangoon still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.

West Meets East

It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life.

Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system.

She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.

A name like Lysistrata should give a hint about the heroine’s independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience.

Over time I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.

The Plot

Lysi is ever cognizant of her expected role in society but sticks to her convictions in an admirable and likable way.

Intrigued by Harley’s outsider status, Lysistrata pursues Ram–to her detriment.

For although their mutual desire results in a night of passion, Harley turns the tables on her, revealing a cruel nature that a veneer of civility had hidden.

When Harley is framed for a murder he did not commit, he assumes Lysi is behind the false accusations. Before he makes his getaway, he vows he will have revenge!

Lysi’s bold behavior made her numerous enemies. These unscrupulous foes collude to have her kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Revenge Turns to Passion

It’s no surprise when Harley purchases her for his own enjoyment. Now that he’s lost his life and status in the so-called civilized White society, he has nothing to lose. Harley takes her to his majestic jungle hideaway, where he will exact his vengeance.

Now going by the name Ram, he shows Lysi a darker side of his nature. For those readers who cannot stomach abuse, fear not.

Whereas in Stormfire, Monson had the hero imprison, torture, rape, and humiliate his heroine, in Rangoon Ram is not near as extreme in his cruelty. He does make Lysi his unwilling mistress.

Ram’s actions may blur the line on consent, although it’s clear Monson has written his behavior more as a “forced seduction” fantasy than a brutal violation.

“You’re practiced enough at rape,” she hissed. “It must be your only alternative to buying a bed partner.”
“But I only had to rape you a little,” he teased, “and of course, I will pay you if you prefer.”
“I prefer to be left alone!”
He laughed. “After last night, even you don’t believe that lie. Why not admit you enjoy what I do to you?”
“Go to hell.”

Despite Lysistrata’s defiance, she finds herself enchanted by Ram and his magical palace in the wilderness.

This middle portion of the story is the best part of the book as Ram and Lysi engage in a tug-and-pull power play. As a mixed-race corsair, Ram has always lived on the fringes, torn between two worlds that never truly accepted him. As a free-thinking woman, Lysistrata has been constrained by the dictates of society.

I could have read hundreds of pages more about their engrossing battle of wills.

The Faltering End

Alas, Lysistrata and Ram’s idyll in the Burmese jungle does come to an end. The false murder charges finally catch up with Ram, and he is arrested.

Now with Ram on trial, Lysistrata fights to save him from the hangman’s noose.

This is where Rangoon fell apart for me. No longer an engaging character-driven romance, the book turned into a dull courtroom drama that went on and on.

Plus, there were multiple side characters who added nothing to the story except for one charismatic fellow.

Final Analysis of Rangoon

Despite Christine Monson’s thoughtful writing, the lackluster conclusion of Rangoon caused my initial delight to wane.

It was a disappointment that the incredible, thrilling highs of her first book were not reached here.

Monson’s characters are strong. Her sensitive skill at her craft was undeniable. However, the plotting was weak in Rangoon. 

It’s one of those romance novels I’m glad to have read but have no plans to ever revisit.

On to the next book.

3.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3
Cover
3
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

WILLING PRISONER IN A PALACE OF DREAMS…
Rangoon. Lysistrata’s heart raced with excitement. A world away from Boston. A place where she could forget…

Rangoon—land of color and adventure—where, like an emerging butterfly, she would taste the exotic and dangerous life of the streets, and dance in the palaces of princes.

But one man made her want even more. Richard Harley’s dark and wicked eyes warned of danger…and hinted at pleasures beyond her wildest fantasies. Drawn, like a moth to the flame, by the lure of the East and the man who was its soul, Lysistrata traveled forbidden roads and journeyed deep into the heart of Burma. And in the secluded majesty of Richard Harley’s castle of erotic dreams, she could at last yield to the man whose passion possessed her, as they both surrendered to the obsession of their love.

RANGOON by CHRISTINE MONSON
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
then came you lisa kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

book review historical romance
Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg
Book Series: Gamblers Duo #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 371
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Then Came You written by Lisa Kleypas is easily one of my favorite romances. It has all the key elements to make this one I would adore. There’s a strong-willed (but charmingly so) heroine, a hero in my all-time hall-of-fame, steamy love scenes, and a magnificent love story.

Not to mention a captivating side character who earned his own book and would show up in about a dozen Kleypas novels.

A Heroine to Remember

The heroine of Then Came You was, at the time of the book’s initial release, a unique female protagonist. Today, Romancelandia is replete with hoydenish, unmarried non-virgins who thumb their noses at conventional rules. Back in 1993, the wild Lily Lawson was most unusual for a historical romance heroine.

The novel begins with Lily aboard a fancy sea vessel for a daytime event that bores her senseless. She allows her hat to fly off into the waters of the Thames in an attempt to prod her male admirers into fetching it for her. The reserved Lord Alex Raiford looks on, disgusted by her antics.

Lily is on the fringes of polite society as she is estranged from her family for her shocking behavior. Many years ago, she was involved in a love affair with an Italian gentleman who turned out to be a cad.

Now, she takes pleasure in shocking the ton. Upon hearing that her dear sister has been forced into a betrothal to the stuffed-shirt Lord Raiford and cannot marry the man she loves, “Lawless” Lily Lawson–as she is called–is determined to save the day.

She will use all her will and wiles to stop Raiford from marrying her sister.

A Hero to Die For

When Lily does succeed, Alex vows revenge and in scene after memorable scene, his vengeance turns to passion. (I admit to fanning myself to Alex’s reaction when Lily is painted with a serpent on her flesh!) Then passion yields to love when he realizes that Lily’s outward behavior is just a cover for the dark secrets that torment her.

Lord Raiford is a responsible man. He has a little brother to care for and estates to run. He was looking for a responsible bride to round out his life.

Alex’s first fiancee died in a horseback riding accident, so Alex is hesitant to get close to anyone, especially a woman of such a free spirit. If you know me and my reviews, you know where I stand on that trope, but here it’s no ghost who’s part of the conflict.

Lily has gained even more notoriety as the only female allowed to gamble in a gaming hell belonging to Derek Craven. Lily even shares a bit of chemistry with the sexy, snaggle-toothed proprietor.

Many Kleypas fans prefer Derek, the hero of this book’s sequel, Dreaming of You, as their favorite Kleypas MC. (Or Sebastian from The Devil in Winter which I haven’t read yet.) As for me, I think Alex Raiford was the better man. He’s strong, kind, intense, and deeply loyal.

Although, the scene where Alex confronts Craven about being Lily’s lover does make Derek look amazing!

There are more obstacles preventing Lily and Alex from being together besides being polar opposites who butt heads.

But Alex’s surprising love will make Lily’s impossible dreams come true. I can’t help but gush over a hero like Alex. He’s principled, a little uptight, beautiful, and great with kids!

Final Analysis for Then Came You

What to say about Then Came You? Lisa Kleypas proved herself to me as one of the best writers in the modern era of romance.

There’s so much to appreciate here: an assertive, unconventional heroine, a virtuous hero I adore, and a wonderfully plotted affair. This is one of my all-time favorites!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.8

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
blood red roses

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

historical romance review
Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Leslie Pellegrino-Peck
Book Series: Medieval Series #1
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

“[At worst] yon Welshman has one dangling nut.”

BLOOD RED ROSES by Katherine Deauxville

The Book

Blood Red Roses is, understandably, a difficult book for some readers to enjoy. However, it stands as one of my most-loved medieval romances.

It could be nostalgia goggles on this one for me, plus a love for the glorious red stepback cover. Or it could be the vivid Middle Ages setting, my favorite time period. Or it could be that this book is really a wonderful piece of romantic fiction, styled to appeal to a niche audience.

I read this Medieval romance by Katherine Deauxville (aka Maggie Davis) twice. Once in middle school and then years later in high school. The story swept me away both times.

The Plot

Alwyn, the Heroine

Alwyn, the heroine of Blood Red Roses, is 28 years old. That is practically ancient for her time period for her to be unmarried. She’s a seemingly wild Welsh woman forced to be a prize in marriage to the Norman knight, Fulk de Joburg, as she’s heiress to her dead father’s lands.

They spend a passionate night together before Fulk is off again to fight for King William.

It rang true to me that a woman would be forcefully bonded to her enemy. It seemed authentic that her husband, being a man of war and conquest, would go off to fight while she lived in her castle, awaiting his return.

Blood Red Roses
Blood Red Roses, Katherine Deauxville, St Martin’s Press, 1991, cover artist Leslie Pellegrino-Peck

Fulk, the Hero

What initially drives Fulk is simple. He won lands in conquest and to help solidify the bonds of conquest, he must marry the daughter of the former lord of said lands. What drives Alwyn is simpler: hate towards her enemy and a desire to be free.

Fulk and Alwyn don’t spend much time together, they’re not deep on intimate conversations either. Their times together are passionate and forceful.

My liking for Blood Red Roses could be because I love the brutal incivility of the Middle Age era. Deauxville injects an earthy historical ambiance that I really appreciate. What is the point of historical romance without history?

There’s a scene where Fulk and his men torture a man and semi-castrate him before he flees. Fulk comments that it could have been worse: “At worst yon Welshman has one dangling nut.” Another scene depicts Fulk and his men as they stare at a woman with hairless pudenda.

The Medieval Setting of Blood Red Roses

The genital references seem to be a theme in the Deauxville Medieval series. There is a dwarf with a giant dong in the second book, Daggers of Gold, which also has lots of talk about circumcised penises (the hero is Jewish). The third, The Amethyst Crown, features more references to dwarves, foreskin, castrations, and shorn vulvas.

Blood Red Roses has middling ratings on some review sites, yet here I am praising it. I often have a contrarian opinion on certain books due to my personally peculiar tastes.

The red-haired hero is extremely cold and distant.

While Fulk is away, Alwyn has an emotional romance with a blond Scottish mason she fantasizes about and kisses.

Later is taken captive by Powys, a black-haired Welsh lord from the hills. The latter was foretold to Alwyn by a fortune-teller who told her to choose Powys as her man.

Then, there is Fulk’s cousin Geoffrey who seems to have designs on Alwyn himself.

Final Analysis of Blood Red Roses

Fulk and Alwyn have a lust-based relationship, one not based on trust or communication. Is it a love story for the ages? Probably not, but I enjoyed the atmosphere and the authenticity of the time period. Blood Red Roses is a Historical romance with a capital H on the history.

Fulk is no reformed kind-hearted hero at the end, and Alwyn will always be a disagreeable shrew. Still, I can’t give this book a lower than “I love it” rating, because frankly, I did.

Perhaps it’s a matter of temporal tastes, as back in 1991 when Blood Red Roses was released, it was fairly successful, winning the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Medieval Romance.

5 Stars


Synopsis:

IN A LAND DIVIDED BY TREACHERY AND ENDLESS WARRING, THEY SHARED A PASSION THAT KNEW NO BOUNDS

When King William’s knight, Fulk de Jobourg, is sent to reclaim the lands of a hanged traitor, he is also commanded to take the man’s unwilling daughter as his wife. Bound and gagged, the furious Lady Alwyn is wedded to this dark-eyed, massive man who spends but one night in her bed before galloping off to fight the king’s battles once more.

Left behind to tend to the Castle Morlaix, Alwyn cannot bring to mind the face of the husband she barely knows. But her body remembers the feel of his hot touch…and the urgent passion he ignited within her. When Fulk returns, Alwyn fights his efforts to take control of her family’s estate. But she cannot resist what he brings to her at night…a sensual pleasure that binds her to him forever against her will…

BLOOD RED ROSES by KATHERINE DEAUXVILLE
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
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

MILD SPOILERS 😉

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
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
2.5
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis

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
Wicked Stranger rawlings

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

stranger in my arms louisa rawlings
Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1992
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #157
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #2
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 298
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

The Book

Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books, Stranger in My Arms.

As I’ve often said before, Rawlings (aka Sylvia Halliday) wrote exquisite romances. She also penned the sensational Stolen Spring, which took place during the era of Louis XIV.

The Hero and the Heroine

Noel, the hero of Wicked Stranger, is the devil-may-care twin brother of Adam from Stranger in My Arms is as different from Adam in temperament as they are as similar in looks.

Noel is a flirt, a charmer who always sees the positive in life and prefers to live without responsibilities. Adam is broody, quiet, gruff, duty-bound, awkward with women, and suffers from the horrors of the Napoleonic wars as he was a general, while Noel was a mere corporal.

Noel Bouchard is in New York after living in France. He’s looking to make his way in life and meets the elite Babcock family.

The Babcocks have several daughters, one being the lovely yet prickly Elizabeth, to whom Noel is strangely drawn.

The heroine of Wicked Stranger, Elizabeth, is often shrill, mean, insecure, and ill-tempered. At first, I thought she didn’t deserve such a great man. She’s part of a well-to-do New York family and was hurt by love in the past, by fortune seekers who wanted her money and not her.

So now she hates all men, especially men looking to advance their income through marriage.

The Plot

Perhaps it’s because Noel sees the hurting soul beneath her tough exterior and just wants to make her happy. For some reason, Noel falls for Elizabeth, and hard! He pursues her relentlessly.

Lucky, lucky woman. *Sigh!*

There are some twists and turns in this book. For example, Noel briefly pretends to be his brother, Adam (just like Adam had pretended to be Noel in the prior book).

Marriage comes quicker than you’d expect for these two, but there are many tribulations they face. There are deaths and a duel, reconciliations, and the love story ends on a passionate, loving note.

Final Analysis of Wicked Stranger

While Louisa Rawlings’ Wicked Stranger is nowhere near as perfect as its predecessor, this is still a delightful read. The wonderful, charismatic hero, Noel, makes this romance shine.

I adore Rawlings’ heroes; they’re so diverse and compelling. Noel was the star of this book, as he was such a magnetic character. Elizabeth was a very lucky woman to find him.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

HEART’S GAMBLE

Elizabeth Babcock had always been “just plain Bessie,” overshadowed by her socialite sisters. Few suitors looked beyond her razor-sharp repartee — and temper to match — before leaving for less challenging opportunities. Until, that is, that night in Paris when she crossed rapier wits with Noel Bouchard …

A gambler, a soldier, a man of the world, Noel Bouchard prayed never to be saddled with a dull domestic life. Marriage, if entered into at all, should be an adventure — tempestuous and lusty. He needed a woman with verve and spirit. With passion and wit. A woman like Elizabeth Babcock …

WICKED STRANGER by LOUISA RAWLINGS