Tag Archives: heroine married to other man

raptures rendezvous

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

book review historical romance
Rapture's Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 483
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Cassie Edwards‘ bests.

First off, let me say that I am a Cassie Edwards fan. I love most of her books and hope one day to own all of them. Having said that, this book–a reprint of a book originally published in 1982–is not one of her best efforts.

cassie edwards 2nd
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 1999 edition

The Plot

Maria Lazzaro and her twin brother Alberto are poor Italians dreaming of a better life in America. That is where their father, Giacomo, emigrated sometime earlier. Eventually, the twins are sent for and they travel on a ship in decrepit conditions to America. Once at sea, Maria and Alberto both lose their innocence. Maria gives hers willingly to the “hero” of the book, Michael Hopper.

Alberto loses his virginity in a far less pleasant way–more on that later.

Michael lies to Maria by telling her he is a buyer for a vintner in America. In actuality, he is a successful businessman investigating the cruel treatment of immigrant miners in one of the many business ventures of an individual named Nathan Hawkins. Why Michael is doing so himself instead of hiring someone isn’t fully explained.

After the ship docks in New York at Ellis Island, Michael and Maria part. They will find each other again in the future.

Maria and Alberto arrive in America thinking their father sent for them. They don’t realize until much later that they were actually sent for by Hawkins. Hawkins needs Alberto to work like his father in Hawkins’ dangerous, unsafe coal mine. Maria, Hawkins wants as his wife.

Brother and sister arrive in the Illinois town of Hawkinsville–also owned by Nathan Hawkins–to realize their lives have not changed for the better as they had hoped. Alberto goes to work alongside his father in the coal mine. Maria pines for Michael.

Maria and Michael find each other again and they have several intimate encounters. Later, Maria is forced to marry Hawkins after he threatens to deport her father and brother.

Eventually, Hawkins gets his comeuppance, Maria and Michael marry and they live happily ever after.

rapture's rendezvous cassie edwards new
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 2011 edition

Sex

There’s a lot of sex, in Rapture’s Rendezvous though not terribly graphic. Or nice. As mentioned, Maria and Michael have several encounters. Michael also has sex with two other women–his secretary and a prostitute–while he and Maria are apart. There is some salaciousness.

Alberto is robbed and raped by a man/woman criminal duo on board the ship to America, which affects him later. Alberto also has incestuous feelings for Maria.

Maria is forced into a sex act by Hawkins after they are married.

Violence

Not much, but some. Alberto gets revenge on his rapist/robbers and hits both the man and woman.

There is also a fight scene in which Michael is assaulted and gets help from Alberto. Hawkins is eventually killed, and although he is shot, it is not graphically described.

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Rendezvous

As stated, Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Mrs. Edwards’ best books. The characters vacillate between whiny and barely likable. The “hero” isn’t really heroic, and the heroine, while being attractive physically, is less attractive because she is somewhat of a weak, whiny individual.

If one is interested in Cassie Edwards’ books, I recommend her “Savage” series. Those books are far better than wasting your time on this drivel.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis

A Woman’s Love
Maria Lazzaro was as ripe and as sweet as the full, juicy grapes that grew in her homeland’s vineyards. And as she boarded an immigrant ship for America, the olive-skinned, raven-haired beauty met the only man she could ever love. That night, with feverish desire, frantic passion, and wild, sensuous rapture, she gave herself to Michael in a moment she knew would bond them for eternity.

A Man’s Lies
Though they would have to part once they reached America, handsome Michael Hopper couldn’t deny himself the enticing wench. He had to take advantage of her innocent allure. Branding her satin throat with kisses, he promised his devotion forever. Searing her silken skin with caresses, he vowed his undying love. No matter what, he had to have her. And no matter what, he would have to leave her…Rapture’s Rendezvous

Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

tempt not this flesh

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

historical romance review
Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe
Rating: two-stars
Published: June 1, 1979
Illustrator: Jordi Penalva
Book Series: Lorna & Paul Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

The Book

Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh was yet another inexplicable bestseller for the gender-bending author whose real name was Alan Riefe. It’s a 1970s bodice ripper Playboy Press published that has very little romance, includes some rape, and lacks any real excitement.

One wonders how desperate readers in the 1970s were for anything interesting to happen in their “romances.”

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Tempt Not This Flesh, definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes like this:

“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”

Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could? It was like being brutally raped, only to have your assaulter satisfy his lust, then turn around and propose marriage. His logic, his love-supplanted-by-hate-which-in-turn-could-be-supplanted-once-again-by-love idea was false. Absurd as far as she was concerned.

so wicked the heart
So Wicked the Heart, Barbara Riefe, Playboy, 1980, Sanjulian cover art
(Book #2 in the Lorna & Paul trilogy)

The Plot

Poor Lorna only wanted to enjoy her honeymoon and make love to her husband.

That’s how the book starts, with Lorna Singleton-Stone, formerly of Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, and her husband Philip making love at an inn in Boston. But before the night is out, her husband is brutally murdered right before her eyes, and Lorna is kidnapped and set on a ship headed to a nightmare.

A nefarious Count holds Lorna held captive in the small kingdom of Savoy. He has plans for her, as a crazy king and wicked queen rule during turbulent times. Except for her hair color, Lorna looks. almost identical to Queen Caroline-Louisa. The Count forces Lorna to pose as her double. He has her head s shaved as smooth as a freshly-shat-out egg, thus cementing the frightening trauma that begins.

Many evildoers threaten Lorna with torture, terrorize her, and attempted assassination. She raped several times (really raped, no forced seductions here).

But her will is steel. She will not break. Lorna may be forced into this game of madness, but she plans to survive at all costs.

Along the way, she meets and falls for Paul, the Queen’s lover, who has a secret plan of survival himself. Twists and turns occur. Sadly, though, what started out as a promising adventure turned into a slow, painful slosh through muddy waters.

Final Analysis of Tempt Not This Flesh

You know the meme with the guy with the awesome sideburns, who rages on about “The rent being too damned high!”? In this book, “The paragraphs were too damned long!” It was full of info-dumps that bored me and caused me to skim.

A lot.

A whole lot, especially past the halfway point when all I wanted was to get it over with!

By the end, my eyes couldn’t handle those page-long paragraphs on yellowed paper. Or the words in a faded size-8 old-timey serif font. (What is the name of that font, anyway? It’s not Baskerville, right? I should know this!)

Yeesh, it turns out that trying to find a great read in these old Playboy Press books is akin to dumpster diving. You hope to find an untouched 5-star gourmet meal sealed up in one of those fancy take-out aluminum-foil swans. But…

It’s possible, for sure. However, it’s a messy slog to get there. And there’s a 100% chance you’ll end up with lots of stinky crap in your hands first; if ever you do find one.

P.S. If anyone knows the name of that font/typeface that many of these old books were written in, let me know. [Somehwere from the mid-1950s to the early-1980s era. I feel like an idiot not knowing something so basic. Thanks.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.4

Synopsis

Tempt Not This Flesh is a story of abduction and sexual enslavement, a story of passion unleashed and unbounded. And above all it is the story of a woman’s love, shattered like glass, then resurrected, rekindled by a dashing captain of dragoons. A love so powerful it is forged into a weapon that topples a dynasty. 

TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH by BARBARA RIEFE

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Ransom (aka Not Quite Married) by Betina Krahn

book review historical romance
Rapture's Ransom by Betina Krahn
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Pirate Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Ransom (aka Not Quite Married) by Betina Krahn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Rapture’s Ransom by Betina Krahn, a Zebra historical romance. This was later reissued and retitled as Not Quite Married.

The Set-Up

The book begins in the South of England in 1787.

It is here that Brien Weston, the heroine of the book, lives–a better term might be “exists”–with her father, Lord Lawrence Weston, the sixth Earl of Southward.

The relationship between father and child is strained and becomes even more so when Lawrence, after a trip to France, announces he has affianced Brien to a man, Raoul Trechard, whom she has never met.

The Plot

When Brien and Raoul finally meet, Brien feels there is a possibility of a love match. That feeling quickly dissipates, however, when Brien learns Raoul’s true colors. She tries to end the engagement, even going so far as to lose her virginity to a stranger to deny Raoul that opportunity.

None of the efforts work, however, and Brien finds herself married to Raoul, who kidnaps, imprisons, and rapes her. She is freed from this torment when Raoul dies in a fire.

Over a year later, Brien meets the man she gave herself to, his name is Aaron Durham, the hero of the book. Brien is sailing to the colonies on business; Aaron is the captain of the ship she’s sailing on, and they re-establish their relationship as lovers during the trip and after they arrive at their destination, Boston.

Brien and Aaron’s happiness is threatened by several factors:

  • Horace Van Zandt: an evil privateer who has a history–and bad blood–with Aaron.
  • Differences in their viewpoints, Aaron wants to live in America and denies his status as a peer of the realm; Brien wishes to live in England.
  • The de Saunier Family: the unnamed patriarch of which tries to force Brien to marry his other son, Louis.
  • Brien’s pregnancy.

The book ends with Brien and Aaron married. They are parents of a son, Garrett, whose presence helps Aaron begin to repair the strained relationship he has with his father, Thomas.

Aaron and Brien have their Happily Ever After.

rapture's ransom not quite married
(Alternate Title version) Not Quite Married, Betina Krahn, Bantam, 2004 edition, Alan Ayers cover art

Upside

It is rare in early 1980’s books–Rapture’s Ransom was first published in November 1983–to have a non-Simpering Sara heroine, but Ms. Krahn does just that in this book. To be fair, this is not entirely about Brien’s strength-Lawrence doesn’t have any sons or male relatives, and Brien is his only surviving child–but still, strength is strength.

Downside

I didn’t feel that Ms. Krahn did enough to flesh out Brien or Aaron. We barely hear about their extended families and only meet Thomas Durham in the last few chapters of the book.

I also didn’t like the fact that two of the villains in the book–Van Zandt and de Saunier–escape basically unscathed despite their deviltry, and even though Raoul dies in a fire, it still feels less than it could have been. I love series-like E.J. Hunter’s “White Squaw”-where the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Sex

There are love scenes, but they are, for the most part, quite mild.

Violence

Scenes of assault, battery, and threats. The one death occurs “off-screen.”

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Ransom

Betina Krahn’s Rapture’s Ransom–aka Not Quite Married–is a sold low four-star book. There are simply too many areas of concern to rate it any higher.

3.99

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
3
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

THE COST OF COMFORT
Golden-haired Brien was indescribably happy: soon she would be the wife of a rich, handsome Frenchman. But when the glowing bride-to-be heard her fiance’s drunken bragging about his past exploits, she couldn’t bear the thought of matrimony to such a scoundrel. There was no way out — and Brien decided that if she must suffer a lifetime by the wastrel’s side, she would delight in just one night of pleasure before her hateful marriage began.

THE PRICE OF PASSION
Dark, rugged Allen Stewart wondered who had summoned him to the discreet, quiet inn, but when he saw the lush, lovely lady, he felt the need for ecstasy, not explanations. They shared a night of unbridled desire — then Allen awoke to a cold, empty bed. the soft, fragrant beauty had bewitched him and he swore that he’d search the whole world and pay any price for RAPTURE’S RANSOM.

RAPTURE’S RANSOM by BETINA KRAHN
tender savage phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

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


Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Plot

Part One of Tender Savage

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two of Tender Savage

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

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

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

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

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

Upside

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

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

Downside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex

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

Violence

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

Bottom Line On Tender Savage

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

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

3 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

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

TENDER SAVAGE by PHOEBE CONN
these golden pleasures

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

historical romance review
These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Jim Dietz
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

What can I say about Valerie Sherwood‘s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512-page 20th-century historical starts out wonderfully.

Somewhere afterward, it falters, lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.

The Plot: Part One

Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.

These Golden Pleasures then heads back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds.

As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood novel, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. As a result, she has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.

Circumstances force her out of Kansas, and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes, who sails ships.

This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot…

And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers. She had a great setup and just let it fizzle.

The Plot: Part Two

After they both betray her, Roxanne marries sad, pathetic Denby. This is where the book draaagggsss. She spends about 150 pages married to him, moving from Georgia to Washington to Alaska as they run out of money and opportunities. There Roxanne has a brief affair with Case, a dark, mysterious gambler.

After Denby croaks, she has a common-law marriage with dull, boring Leighton, whom the author constantly calls a golden giant. I kept picturing him as a hulking Brock Lesnar type. That’s not sexy to me. We’re told that Leighton is a really nice guy. Regardless, he leaves Roxanne stranded in Asia and returns to his ailing wife in the States!

Later on, Roxanne has four or five other lovers because she is alone and has to support herself somehow.

That’s when Rhodes comes back for revenge, so I thought: okay, now it’s on. Not so fast! They’re quickly separated, and it’s back to Gavin in San Francisco.

Final Analysis of These Golden Pleasures

I don’t mind romances where the heroine has more than one lover, as long as the love story is well-developed or the other men in the book are exciting. While the scenes with Rhodes and Roxanne are hot, they’re all too brief.

There was very little true romance in These Golden Pleasures. The history is wonderfully detailed, as one would expect in a Valerie Sherwood novel. There is one scene in particular where Denby, a glove-maker/salesman, puts leather gloves on Roxanne which is written so beautifully. But authentic history was not enough for me in this one.

This was a rare deviation for Sherwood from her Cavalier/Georgian era books, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it as much as her other works.

Roxanne is a strong, fascinating heroine. The book is at its best whenever she’s with the brothers. It’s unfortunate that it’s not front and center in this epic saga.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
3
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis:

They called her That Barrington Woman. She was beautiful – and notorious. But beneath the silks and diamonds, within the supple body so many men had embraced, was the heart of a girl who yearned still for love. At fifteen she had learned her beauty was both a charm and a curse. It had sent her fleeing from Kansas, had been her downfall in Baltimore and Georgia, yet had kept her alive in the Klondike and the South Seas.

Now on this fateful night in 1906, here in San Francisco’s most glittering atmosphere, will she at last be able to reveal her secret longing? Will she be able to call love by name – and claim it?

THESE GOLDEN PLEASURES by VALERIE SHERWOOD
a lady bought with rifles jeanne williams

Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

historical romance review
A Lady Bought With Rifles by Jeanne Williams
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Ron Lesser
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

A Lady Bought With Rifles by Jeanne Williamsis an amalgam of great writing and stupid characterization.

I was extremely frustrated reading it because it could have been one of those legendary bodice rippers that old-school fans would be talking about to this day.

The Heroine

Upon her father’s death, the British-raised Miranda is called back to her father’s ranch in Mexico. There she meets two strikingly different American men, Trace, a tall, dark, and mysterious pistolero, and Court Saunders, the foreman of Miranda’s newly inherited mines and lover to her resentful half-sister, Reina. Blond, panther-like, and roguish, his sensual presence is almost irresistible.

The sisters both inherit the ranch. Miranda, being a foreigner, is aghast by the circumstances of the ranch and mines, particularly how the indigenous Mexicans are treated, how the evil Reina treats her, how gorgeous hunk Court pursues her…and just about every other thing she can find to complain about, rightly or wrongly.

The most frustrating aspect of A Lady Bought With Rifles is that I absolutely loathed the heroine. She ruined what could have been a fun read into painful torture at times.

Never have wanted to smack a protagonist as much as I have Miranda. She is ignorant of the new lands but thinks she knows better than everyone else before asking for advice. She is inflexible, a misguided do-gooder, the type who’s always offended on someone else’s behalf. Moreover–the worst about her–she has terrible taste in men.

The Two Men

Trace

Both Court and Trace take an interest in Miranda, but while Trace maintains an enigmatic distance, it’s Court who vows to make her his woman. Miranda quickly decides she loves Trace, the noble yet inscrutable gunman. Me, I’ll take wicked, sexy Court.

Sure, Trace is appealing with his darkly handsome cowboy looks, but it is Court who offers her genuine help. It’s Court who sticks around, who cares for her and her lands.

Meanwhile, it’s Trace who goes off on escapades of his own. He’s not even half as charismatic as Court. Plus, he has a sexual relationship with a young Native woman he and Miranda cared for when she was a child!

Court

Court offers marriage to Miranda after Trace runs off. Miranda flees, yet Court eventually finds her, and she vows to resist him at every turn, doing everything to deny her attraction to his intense magnetism.

“When I heard you were almost surely dead, that’s when I knew what you were to me. My woman. You rode back to me from the dead. I’ll never let you go again.”

Weak and spent, I said desperately, as if I were shouting at him in a foreign language, “You don’t love me or you’d care what I feel!”

“I do care. In a year you’ll love me.”

Even at that moment, when I hated him, my blood quickened as he smiled. I cried defiance as much to my treacherous body as to him. “I won’t. I’ll hate you more than I do know. “

“We’ll see.” He cupped my chin and raised my face. “You’re tired darling. Sleep now. You can give me your answer in the morning.”

I couldn’t let him kill Trace. But to submit to those muscular, golden-haired arms? Let him do the things Trace had? And it wouldn’t be for one time only, I was sure of that. Court might after a season let me go, but I had a frightening dread that if he possessed me long enough, he would drain me till I became his thing, his creature—that I wouldn’t go, even if he allowed it and Trace would t
ake me.

And this super charismatic hunk is the villain???

Breaking the Mold

Several points. Most romances in 1977, when A Lady Bought With Rifles was written, had heroes who acted exactly as Court did. Heroines responded to their true loves (and yes, sometimes villains) just as Miranda does: “with her treacherous body betraying her.”

I’m a bit familiar with Williams’ writing style as I’ve read other of her books. If she had written romances in the current era, her values would be more in line with the genre as it is today.

I’m guessing that Williams purposely turned the tables on how historical romance novels (i.e., the bodice ripper) were written during the 1970s.

She wanted to write a bodice ripper that subverted expectations to make it compelling, but she just “Rian Johnsoned” it instead. (Yeah, The Last Jedi fans, I went there.)

Rather than ending up with wildly sexual and devoted Court, a man who would walk through the fires of hell and back to get his woman, whose fatal flaw was more “macho” than “sensitive,” it’s the tough but tender guy, a guy who abandons his woman and child to fight a war that isn’t his, who gets the heroine.

The two men are not so distinctly different as perhaps the author meant for the reader to feel: Court is evil, and Trace is good. It’s more nuanced than that, and it’s a risky line for the writer to tread because then the villain becomes more intriguing than the hero.

The Wrong Guy

I compare A Lady Bought With Rifles to Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire because the villains in those books were more compelling than the heroes.

ALBWR is less fun than The Frost and the Flame, and in Lady of Fire, I actually liked the hero. The main difference is in those other two books, the villain was indeed villainous.

Here, Court is the antagonist, although I wouldn’t call him the villain. For example, despite major doubts that his son is actually his–he’s not, Trace is the dad–Court treats the boy with love and care. That is until Miranda cruelly throws it into Court’s face that he is not the father.

Then Court ignores him, simply counting the days until Trace’s son is to be sent off to boarding school.

This leaves Miranda upset and befuddled. “Why, oh why has Court’s behavior changed?”

Gee, what could it be, you stupid cow? Court knew the kid wasn’t really his son, as Court could do basic math. Still, he was willing to pretend that the son of another man—a man he despised—was his, so long as Miranda went along with the pretense.

When she viciously admits to Court that he wasn’t the father, did she really expect Court to react with glee?

I can’t emphasize enough how I hated her stupid, self-centered, sanctimonious character. Court was way too good for her. He warranted his own story with a happy ending.

Williams didn’t want that. As the author, that was her decision. As the reader, it was not one I appreciated.

Final Analysis of A Lady Bought With Rifles

Like many older romance novels, this is truly a romance in the complete meaning of the word: an epic of great scope. Ostensibly the main part should be the love story between Trace and Miranda, yet it’s actually a much smaller part of the story that makes up the book.

In summary, as I wrote in my notes:

Take one exasperating, young, self-righteous heroine.

Add one hero who spends 50 pages max with the heroine, disappears halfway through, and is reunited 10 pages from the end with the heroine.

Then add a plethora of side characters whose deaths are used to manipulate sympathy for the annoying heroine. Finally, add one sexy-as-hell, multifaceted antagonist/anti-hero whose downfall brought me to tears.

Mix with uneven pacing and plotting.

End result: über disappointing 3.5 star read. I would have rated this 2.5 stars, but the writing is quite exceptional.

And Court (sigh)! Wonderfully erotic, tragically misunderstood Court deserved so much better than he got.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis:

Court Sanders… Yankee adventurer, tawny lion of a man whose obsession for gold and beautiful women was second only to his lust for Miranda.

Trace Windslade… Dashing Texan pistolero with eyes of blue fire. Miranda was his – no matter how many times Court Sanders possessed her.

Miranda… from a frail, convent-bread girl she blossomed into a woman as fierce as the rebels she befriended. Men lived and dies for her. She was… A lady bought with rifles!

A lady bought with rifles by Jeanne Williams
Skye O'Malley bertrice small

Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Glenn Madison
Book Series: The O'Malley Saga #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Erotic Romance, Harem Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Tudor Era Romance
Pages: 480
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

Spoiler Alert ⚠

Skye O’Malley: The Most Perfect Heroine Ever?

Oh, never, ever was there a lass as lovely as Bertrice Small‘s Skye O’Malley.

With raven locks, eyes as blue-green as the Kerry sea, tiny waist, impossibly long legs for such a wee girl, pert boobies, and a fantastical elastic vagina that bounces back to its teen glory no matter how many kids she births (she must’ve done her Kegels), Skye is the most beautiful, most desirable, most enchanting, the “bestest ever!”

The Plot

Any man who looks upon her nubile beauty will be inflicted with priapism.

The sole cure is a ticket of the old in and out of Skye’s mossy cavern of passion. Her weeping honey-oven. Her juicy love-grotto, as it were. Yup, only the cringiest, the purplest of euphemisms are here.

The vintage “Queen of Erotic Romance,” Bertrice Small takes us across the seas and nations to experience the highs and lows–but mostly orgasmic highs–of Skye’s life.

Women, be they the female pirate Grace O’Malley or the Queen of England herself, Queen Bee, are intimidated by her beauty and her fiery, passionate nature!

And men… Well, they all want to delve their pulsing lances into her moist, dewy petaled sheath.

But though Skye had learned the womanly arts she had not become a biddable female. Not Skye O’Malley!

Hero #1

Not one hero will do for our eponymous goddess of a heroine, Skye O’Malley. She’s too hot and needs a lot of thick hose to put out her fires!

The daughter of an Irish laird/pirate named Dubhdara, Skye is secretly in love with Niall, a powerful lord’s son. Alas, she is too saucy a wench and will never do for Niall. So the powers that be connive to wed Skye to their son, dumb Dom.

Then our hero does something that shocks everyone. On Skye’s wedding night, Niall stuns the revelers when he interrupts the festivities, points his finger at Skye, and says, “I claim droit de seigneur of this woman!” Which is so goofy, and like the film “Braveheart,” ahistorical, but just go with it.

Afterward, Skye is left to live with Dom, who’s got a giant wang, but only teases Skye with it, as he never lasts long. Besides, it’s incestuous hook-ups with his sister, Claire, he prefers.

Occasionally, Dom brings Skye into their little dalliances, although Skye is unwilling. She bares Dom’s 2 sons before he’s paralyzed and then eventually dies.

Niall, in the meantime, was married off to frigid, crazed Darragh, whom he eventually casts aside. She enters a nunnery, and now he and Skye are free to marry.

Hero #2

Uh-uh-uh, not so fast.

Our independent Skye demands to expand her father’s shipping business, and wouldn’t you know it, she gets shipwrecked and loses her memory.

Skye ends up in Algiers to have yet another true love affair, this time with the Grand Whoremaster of Algiers, Khaled-El-Bey. In Bertrice Small’s corner of Romancelandia, Irish-Welsh-Scottish-English women from the Middle Ages to post-Enlightenment were drawn to harems like sharp nails to magnets (ouch, bad metaphor).

Skye becomes one of his earthly houris, but strictly for his personal use, and not only that but his top bitch, her poon so fine, even the biggest pimp in all of pimpdom has to put a ring on it.

Niall is this time married off to a Spanish girl. The sweet, innocent virgin Niall seduces and then marries turns out to be the opposite of wife #1. She’s an insatiable nympho who becomes a clandestine whore because even with Niall giving it to her three times a night, it’s not enough.

Yada, yada, yada, Skye O’Malley gives Khaled El-Bey a daughter, but he croaks due to harem machinations and jealousy.

Skye, who’s so awesome she can always depend on the kindness of strangers to help her out, leaves for England, even though she still has amnesia.

Hero #3

There she is pursued by yet another true love, Geoffrey.

The blond, green-eyed arrogant Lord Southwood bets that he can seduce the mysterious Skye, who spurns him, then entices him, and makes him fall for her until… she’s his!

Oh, and he’s married. Skye doesn’t care.

His wife dies and eventually, Skye marries Geoffrey and is blissfully happy. Until that is, her memory returns when she sees Niall almost killed and screams out his name. But again, they’re married to different people, so they can’t be together.

I hated Geoffrey and was glad when he kicked the bucket.

He blamed his first wife for being unable to bear sons and threw it in her face that’s why he abandoned her. His perfect Skye would have no trouble giving him sons, though. Her vag is pH balanced to accept only the most macho of y-alleles (and only a rare x-swimmer).

She bears Geoffrey two boys, one who dies with his father during the pox.

The Villain & the Honestly Nice Guy

After Geoffrey dies, Skye is left unprotected, as the wicked Queen Bess forces Skye to be her beloved Earl of Lessessester, er–any-who, Lord Robert Dudley’s plaything.

A little bestiality is hinted at as the awful Robert uses his servants as sex slaves to be used by his friends.

But not Skye. Skye, he will abuse her for his own purposes and not in a fun way. Dudley rapes Skye until he’s had his use of her, and she’s left traumatized.

After her awful arrangement with Dudley, Skye shies away from men–no, not really.

She gets involved in some smuggling and shipping with another Lord, Adam De Marisco, an Englishman.

For some reason, my favorite of Skye’s men was Adam, a nice, laughing guy with a beard who made sex pleasurable for Skye again (which, to be fair, wasn’t that difficult of a task). He was like a big teddy bear, with no arrogance, no baggage, just pure fun. Adam soothes Skye’s hurts and gives her passion without entanglements.

Why she didn’t end up with him in this book is beyond me. But he’ll make a return in the series, and I like what happened with him in All the Sweet Tomorrows.

Back to #1

Remember that lusty wife Niall had? Well, now, she’s near-death because she’s suffering from the pox (not the pox that killed Geoffrey, the other pox). 

Not Niall, though. He’s STD-free because that lucky guy gets to be this book’s hero. Due to that, having sex with a woman who’s had sex with hundreds of men doesn’t even make it hurt when he pees. Not even a weird itching!

All things fall into place, so Niall and Skye find their way back into each other’s arms. The dull, boring hero, Niall, gets his beautiful, perfect, sexual, rich, fecund, brilliant (yeah, that last one was a stretch) Skye O’Malley.

Final Analysis of Skye O’Malley

After bearing her assorted lovers and husbands (6 if you’re counting; it seems like more only because, to be fair, Skye does engage in a lot of sex) 5 children (with more kids to come), her figure–and her moist cavern of love–remain tiny and petite, unchanging despite age, births or time.

This book is a romp. Not meant to be taken deeply because if you do, you might experience heartbreak.

I am so glad I read Skye O’Malley when I was well into my twenties. If I had read this as a teen, my poor little heart wouldn’t have been able to take it.

One woman having that many men she all truly loved and in such a short amount of time (relatively), in a romance novel!

Thankfully, with maturity comes the ability to relax and not take everything so seriously, and Skye O’Malley is not a book to be taken seriously.

It’s so bad, yet so good, yet so bad… which is the best of qualities in an old bodice ripper.

I didn’t love Bertrice Small’s magnum opus Skye O’Malley, but I had a ball reading it. And that’s all that matters.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

There has never been a woman like luscious, raven-haired, hot-tempered Skye O’Malley. She is the courageous seafaring captain of her own mighty fleet, and intelligent enough to win a battle of wits with Queen Elizabeth herself. Follow along as Skye O’Malley is swept up in a journey filled with romance and passion that takes her from glittering Ireland, to lush Algeria, to the heart of London in pursuit of a unique and eternal love…

SKYE O’MALLEY by BERTRICE SMALL
guilty love charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: Guilty Love by Charlotte Lamb

Synopsis:

Nowhere to run.

Linzi York loved her husband — but Barty had changed. His rage and growing despair since the accident had taken a brutal toll. Linzi was trapped in a nightmare. And Ritchie Calhoun knew it.

Linzi and Ritchie’s relationship had always remained on a cool professional level — but now facades were beginning to crumble. Needs and desires they were powerless to deny tormented them…and it was Linzi who was paying the highest price.

Then a horrible tragedy shattered their lives — and Ritchie’s courage proved his love in a way that few men ever could…

GUILTY LOVE by CHARLOTTE LAMB

SPOILER & SENSITIVE CONTENT ALERT ⚠

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.

Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.

The Characters

Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger. The prospects of having that big happy family seem impossible now.

Ritchie and Linzi have a great working relationship. Unsurprisingly, Ritchie carries a torch for his married secretary and can sense something’s not right with her marriage.

Barty started drinking to overcome his chronic depression. He views himself as half a man and has violent outbursts that he seemingly can’t control.

The Plot

Like in her book A Frozen Fire, a Charlotte Lamb heroine finds herself trapped in a marriage. In the previous book, the heroine was married to a cheating louse. Here, Linzi is married to an abusive spouse. Both Lamb heroines are intensely loyal to their partners for some unfathomable reason. They are the for better or worse types; even it makes them self-inflicted martyrs.

Barty’s affliction has made him homicidal. He beats Linzi constantly. He even tries to rape her but can’t perform.

Linzi has to spend more time working as Ritchie has a big project to finish. The late hours make Barty jealous. One night when Linzi gets home, Barty flies into a jealous rage and begins to beat her. Then events take a strange and horrific turn. Ritchie shows up. Barty is killed. What did Ritchie do?

The police arrest Ritchie for Barty’s murder. Ritchie goes to prison for several years.

Upon his release, Ritchie comes back into Linzi’s life, seeking revenge. Altered by years of incarceration, the formerly nice beta-male boss is now a cruel, remorseless being.

For her part, Linzi wants nothing to do with the man who killed her husband. Ritchie won’t be thwarted. Revenge turns into passion. Then a shocking revelation changes everything.

Final Analysis of Guilty Love

I won’t analyze this book with a realistic outlook; that’s too depressing.

With Harlequin Presents–especially certain authors like Charlotte Lamb–you’re bound to have a crazy, emotional time. Lamb would tackle controversial issues like rape and abuse with a psychoanalytical intensity that was riveting. (Usually.)

At 190 pages, Guilty Love is too short to delve properly into the very serious issues of abuse, trauma, and repression. It’s fair to make an argument that the violence displayed here was for gratuitous reasons.

In a lesser author’s hands, this would be a failure. When Lamb pulled out all the stops, she made a dark premise work. Rather than dwell on grim reality, Lamb ramped up the melodrama. It does create a heck of a page-turner.

Guilty Love is a twisted tale of revenge and dark revelations. Full of continuous action with a quick-moving plot, it’s hard to look away. It had me hooked from the first and never let go.

5 Stars

Angel In Scarlet duillo

Historical Romance Review: Angel in Scarlet by Jennifer Wilde

Synopsis:

Angela Howard was the toast of London — a breathtaking vision every woman envied and every man longed to possess. Few would have dreamed this violet-eyed beauty was the precocious child of a country schoolmaster… the feisty girl who had spurned Lord Clinton Meredith, the “fairy tale prince”, to surrender her innocence to Hugh Bradford, his illegitimate brother… the young woman who had come to London with nothing but a broken heart — and a fierce determination to survive.

Now she was a celebrated actress; immortalized on canvas by Gainsborough; adored by Jamie Lambert, the playwright who made her his star; desired by the golden-haired lord obsessed with making her his lady… and still tormented with longing for the man who had branded her very soul with his passion, and who has now returned to reawaken past splendors of a love he means to reclaim….

ANGEL IN SCARLET by JENNIFER WILDE

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Angel In Scarlet

Jennifer Wilde, aka Mr. Thomas E. Huff, wrote a few bodice rippers before writing romances that weren’t bodice rippers but not quite traditional romances either.

Angel In Scarlet isn’t a bodice ripper. It’s a Georgian-Era chick-lit. This is a hard one to categorize. It’s not just a romance, but more of a heroine’s journey through life and her relationships with several men she meets along the way.

The Plot

Angel in Scarlet begins when our heroine Angela Howard is a child. At twelve years old, she meets Hugh, the man who will haunt her for her entire life. They have a strange first meeting: she’s a peeping Tom trying to catch an eyeful of some action, when Hugh, who’s 16, discovers her then gives her a spanking as a discipline!

Angela grows up with her cruel sisters and mother. Poor Angie, she’s so unattractive with her rich, chestnut hair, violet-gray eyes, and enormous boobies. Who would ever love her?

She goes through ups and downs. Angela carves her way into society, falls in love, and has her heart broken. She then moves to London to make it big as an actress. She gets married and is widowed, her heart gets broken once more.

Three men vie for Angela’s love: Hugh Bradford, the bastard son of a nobleman, whose passion for Angela is surpassed only by his desire for legitimacy & a title. There’s the arrogant womanizer, Lord Clinton Meredith, Hugh’s half-brother, who is more than what he seems. And last, the famous playwright, James “Jamie” Lambert, has a tumultuous professional and personal career with Angela.

Highlight to View Spoilers Below

In the end, Angela picked the last man I thought she should be with. It broke the rules to end up with the guy she did, but that’s what Mr. Huff was good at, breaking the rules. I can’t forget how shocked I was at the end of Love Me, Marietta.

So it was the “right” choice because the man she loved could never be content with just loving her.

(Highlight the white area below to read spoilers.)

Past the age of thirty, a person shouldn’t blame their parents for their shortcomings, yet Hugh had a rough childhood, so I couldn’t fault him. His life was so difficult, and he had nothing except his dreams. They were absolutely shattered at the end. He got what he wanted, but it wasn’t worth it without Angela.

Still, I felt bad for him. I guess that’s the mark of a good writer if you can make your “villain” sympathetic. He was single-minded and wrong, but Angela was so harsh because he wanted to get his fortune. Finished! Angela, you broke that man’s heart! He was cruel and misguided, but he loved you. After what happened to Clinton, she had every right to be. Clinton was not the man for her, but I loved him. He was so sweet (plus a blond) and got teary-eyed when he made his exit.

As for Jamie, he was a great character, but Angela lived with him for years and never realized she loved him until they were through. Certainly not the kind of epic love you’d expect in a romance. I wish Hugh hadn’t turned into a jerk for her to have to make that decision.

The scene where Jamie revealed his true feelings for Angela was fantastic, and if it had been more of those, I don’t think I’d feel as conflicted.

Let’s Get It On

Wilde never met a word that wasn’t a friend. Adverbs, adjectives, subjective clauses, it’s all there, and then some! One particular passage struck out to me as ridiculously cartoony:

We ate slowly, looking at each other the whole while, silent, anticipating, savoring the sensations building, mounting inside. Utterly enthralled I watched him eat chicken, his strong white teeth tearing the flesh apart, and it was thrilling, tantalizing. I observed the way his neck muscles worked when he swallowed his wine, and that was thrilling, too and I watched with fascination as his large brown hand reached out, fingers wrapping around a fuzzy golden-pink peach, clutching it. He took up a knife and carefully peeled the peach and divided it into sections and ate them one by one, his brown eyes devouring me as he did so. The tip of his tongue slipped out and slowly licked the peach juice from his lips…

ANGEL IN SCARLET

I think this was supposed to be a sensually-tinged scene like the one out of the film “Barry Lyndon.” As for me, I was reminded of the “3rd Rock From the Sun” Thanksgiving episode where Harry and Vicki have leftover foreplay, eating turkey legs and dipping their fingers in gravy. Then Harry puts a turkey carcass on his head, and the loving begins.

“3rd Rock From the Sun,” Carsey Werner Company/NBC

Final Analysis of Angel in Scarlet

This was the story of the rise of actress Angela Howard and her (not too many) loves.

At 600 pages long, Jennifer Wilde’s Angel in Scarlet runs a tad overlong. That might have been due to Wilde’s penchant for purple prose, clothes porn, and food porn. Sex porn? Nah, Wilde uses a stream of consciousness perspective and euphemisms for love scenes. Hardly porn.

Mr. Wilde could have cut out 100 pages of description. I didn’t need to know the details of every outfit worn by every character in every scene.

Although I enjoyed it, I’m not 100% certain Angela made the right decision in the end.

I wanted to hate this, but something about Huff’s writing pulled me in. Yes, it’s as purple as grape jelly and full of run-on sentences, but for some reason, I can tolerate it more than Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ prose. The tension of not knowing who Angela was going to choose and the resulting emotions when she did are feelings I won’t forget.

3.88 stars

hearts of fire gulbronson

Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #3
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

CONTENT & SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills is a great medieval romance that fell a bit short of being flawless.

This book is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Mills’ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel, was.

A Fitting Sequel to a Masterpiece Romance

Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux.

Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.

In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book, Richard could have been a villain. In this story, he’s the hero, and a wonderful one at that. His multi-faceted personality makes Richard almost as intriguing as his grandfather.

Forbidden Love

Gilliane de Lacey is orphaned, and her brother is dead. When Richard’s forces surround Gillaine’s home, she thinks it’s a siege and does what she can to defend her fortress home. To her shock, it is not an enemy but a friend of her brother who has arrived. An enraged Richard is prepared to butt heads with the fool who ordered the attack. Then he finds himself confronted with the beautiful Gilliane. His world is torn asunder.

Richard is from a wealthy, powerful family. Although he bristles under his father’s authority, he is duty-bound to wed a noblewoman with whom his father has arranged a marriage. Gilliane, as the mere sister to a simple knight, is part of the vassal class. Despite their obstacles, Gilliane and Richard are drawn together and cannot deny their love.

The Few Flaws

The forbidden romance between Richard and Gilliane de Lacey is stellar… When they’re together, that is.

I would have given this book 5 stars if not for the long separation when the heroine is married to some beast of a man who rapes and abuses her. It added nothing to the story. I can see that Mills was trying to parallel Lady of Fire with this plot, as in that tale, the heroine was captured and violated by the villain.

But it doesn’t work here, as Robert Bellesme was such an integral part of Lady of Fire. Meanwhile, the abusive other man is relatively unimportant to the overall picture. The long section when Gilliane was paired off with him seemed like filler for this 431-paged book.

Final Analysis of Hearts of Fire

The moments when Hearts of Fire shines are when Richard is around. He is Bellesme, with none of the baby-killing, mother-fucking, or father-killing baggage.

I loved Bellesme in Lady of Fire. Despite his thoroughly wicked behavior, he was complex and charismatic. I wished Robert could have had a bit of happiness and love.

Through his grandson Richard and Richard’s epic romance with a woman beneath his class, this achievement is fulfilled. Anita Mills is such a riveting author, I can’t wait to finish this series.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

Gilliane de Lacey’s pride is as fiery as her hair. In the face of a command from the King of England himself, she refused to wed a lord she despises. The one man she does want, Richard of Rivaux, is honor-bound to wed another, even though his passion for her has become a burning need.
 
Defying death to rescue Gilliane from the royal wrath, Richard draws his love into the perilous swirl of conflict between England and Normandy. Against this dramatic backdrop, Gilliane and Richard know that nothing will ever stop them from risking it all for love, and giving all to desire.

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
sapphire

Historical Romance Review: Sapphire by Patricia Matthews

Sapphire, Patricia Matthews, Harlequin, 1989, Max Ginsburg cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Book

In Patricia Matthews’ late-Victorian era set Sapphire, treasure hunting and separated lovers are the two driving plot points of this 1989 historical romance.

The Plot

Down on her luck, when Englishwoman Regina Paxton hears tales of treasure–jewels–in far-away India, she is immediately intrigued. She forms a strange association with burly, bearded Irishman Brian MacBride. Together, the two travel to India in search of treasure. Their journey is rough and arduous. But together, they make it. And what’s more, they actually find the jewels they were searching for.

Of course, the two bond in various ways, enjoying a quick romantic affair.

Regina and Brian separate, as Brian has never been the settling done type. Unfortunately, for Regina, she’s with a child, and settling down is exactly what she needs to do. So in comes along old what’s his name, Will, a nice, unassuming man, who Regina convinces herself will do. She marries him, all the while knowing she’s pregnant with Brian’s child. Indeed, it’s no surprise to her when her son is born with a red shock of hair.

Then Brian returns to Regina’s world, and the old feelings come rushing back. Brian and Regina’s relationship, however, wasn’t a love story for the ages. In fact, Brian had never shared any words of love with Regina. Yes, Brian is her son’s biological father, but other than that, there was no epic entanglement between the two. Matthews should have made their relationship more intense; then, I would have believed that Regina yearned for Brian for years. But as it is, when Brian is around, Regina can’t think of anything but him.

I believe Regina lusted after Brian, but love? Anyway, I remember feeling bad for her husband when Regina called out Brian’s name during sex.

Final Analysis of Sapphire

Do you know what happens in historical romances where the heroine is married to another man? Well, that’s the conclusion we get here. I don’t know if Brian and Regina earned their happiness, as it came at the cost of another person. For some reason, though, I was entertained by this book, enjoying the first treasure-seeking half, with Brian and Regina traveling to India searching for the eponymous sapphire. Unfortunately, the second half had me disliking the heroine, as she was dishonest about fundamental issues.

I’m rather mixed on this one, but as I didn’t have a bad time reading it, it’s not fair to give Sapphire less than a 3-star rating.

kathleeen's surrender nsn ryan

Historical Romance Review: Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan

book review historical romance
Kathleen's Surrender by Nan Ryan
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 462
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Kathleen’s Surrender by Nancy Henderson Ryan–known better these days as Nan Ryan–is without question one of the best, most emotional romance novels I’ve ever read.

This review is based on the Zebra print version of the book published back in 1983.

The Plot

Part One

As the book opens, we meet the Beauregard family of Natchez-on-the-Hill, Mississippi. Patriarch Louis Antoine, Matriarch Abigail Howard Beauregard, and the heroine of the book, their only child, daughter Kathleen Diana Beauregard.

At the start, Kathleen is a starry-eyed 15-year-old who loves her Southern Belle life. She soon meets a handsome, wealthy man named Dawson Blakely and falls quickly and fully in love with him. They fall in love and want to get married.

However, Louis is vehemently against their relationship, although he and Abigail are nice to Dawson. Louis’ objection: Dawson’s ancestry isn’t as blue-blooded as the Beauregards’ is; Dawson’s ancestors are rather notorious people.

Louis tells Dawson they can’t marry, and Dawson loves Kathleen enough to let her go without telling her that her father is the one who’s trying to keep them apart. They do have an intimate encounter before they part, which results in Kathleen’s pregnancy.

To avoid losing face, Kathleen marries a doctor named Hunter Alexander to give their child–a son named Scott–a father.

Dawson, meanwhile, goes to Europe to drown his sorrows over losing Kathleen in drink and women.

Part Two

As time goes on–the book encompasses 10 years–Kathleen realizes she’s not in love with Hunter and freezes him out–emotionally and sexually. Dawson eventually returns to America while Kathleen realizes that she and Dawson still love each other. They become involved again.

Hunter sees them kissing and decides, when the Civil War begins, to join the Confederate Army, ostensibly to die in combat to avoid living with a broken heart, knowing that Kathleen will never love him the way she loves Dawson. Dawson also does his part for the Confederacy, acting as a blockade runner on one of his many ships.

Part Three

As the war goes on, Kathleen later realizes she does love Hunter and goes to the frontlines of the war in Vicksburg to be with him-they make love. On the way back to Natchez, Kathleen and her servant are set upon by Union soldiers, one of whom tries to rape her. That is prevented by Dawson, who is shot and seriously wounded in the process.

Then Kathleen decides she wants to be with Dawson again. She finds out later that Hunter is listed as a casualty of the war and decides to go ahead and marry Dawson.

Things don’t end there, but I won’t reveal all of what happens.

It’s Complicated

While you might think that Kathleen is a flighty and self-centered five-letter-word-for-female-dog flipping back and forth between her husband and her lover, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Ms. Ryan does a tremendous job exploring and describing the emotions Kathleen, Hunter, and Dawson are going through. None of the three are villains, nor are they trying to deliberately hurt each other. They’re just three people caught in a love triangle that none of them want, but they also can’t get out of easily.

I felt each of their joys and sorrows, and it is an emotional rollercoaster that touched every one of my emotions.

Sex

There are some sex scenes, and although they are multiple pages long, they are not overly graphic.

Violence

Since the latter half of the book takes place in the Civil War, there is some violence. Most of it is not graphically described, except for the scene in which Dawson shoots and kills Kathleen’s attempted rapist. That is graphically described.

Final Analysis of Kathleen’s Surrender

One of the most important things that a book–or tv show or movie–has to do to get and keep my attention is to make me care about the people I’m watching/reading about. Ms. Ryan does exactly that. She made me care about Kathleen, Hunter, and Dawson, and it was incredible to read this book.

Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan is one of my favorite novels ever.

BTW, on Amazon, where I first posted this review, Ms. Ryan wrote to me to tell me that she appreciated my review!

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

PROMISE OF LOVE
“I know that you will fall madly, helplessly in love with me,” dashing Dawson Blakely murmured in Kathleen’s delicate ear. Though she knew it was wrong to encourage the gambler’s attentions, the curvaceous beauty couldn’t keep her heart from racing nor stop the blush that spread from her velvety cheeks to her full, heaving bosom.

DREAM OF DESIRE
The innocent young woman tried not to feel the virile man’s hard body next to her soft skin; she knew she ought to slap away the strong hands encircling her tiny waist. But she had always wondered what it was like to fall in love. Without a second thought, she yielded to the magic of passion’s splendor and swooned to the ecstasy of KATHLEEN’S SURRENDER

Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan
passions web

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Web by Cassie Edwards

Passion’s Web, Cassie Edwards, Zebra, 1984, Walter Popp cover artist

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Book

This review is of Passion’s Web by Cassie Edwards.

The book begins in Key West, Florida, with the heroine of the book, Natalie Palmer, and the hero, Bryce Fowler, meeting in a carriage. Shortly after they meet, Natalie and Bryce become lovers.

Backstory #1

Natalie lives with her father, Saul, a wealthy tobacconist. She also has an older brother, Adam. Natalie’s mother, Kathryn, passed when Natalie was younger. The circumstances of her passing is one of many secrets–the theme of the book–that Saul is trying to keep from Natalie.

Backstory #2

Bryce–who has multiple aspects to his persona–has come to Key West at the request of his dying father, Tom. Bryce has been estranged from his father for a long time. Bryce also has to deal with his younger brother, Hugh, with whom he has bad blood.

The Plot

Bryce is hired by a businessman in New Orleans, Clarence Seymour, to find three things. An opium shipment, and Seymour’s wife and daughter, who were taken in separate incidents years apart. Bryce won’t be able to bring back Seymour’s wife–she, Kathryn, is dead–but he can bring back his daughter…Natalie.

Bryce kidnaps Natalie and takes her to New Orleans to meet Clarence. He’s happy to see her, but one person who most definitely isn’t is Brenda Seymour, Clarence’s other daughter, Natalie’s sister…and Adam’s lover.

When Natalie decides to go back to Key West, Brenda helps her. This effort ends up with Natalie being forced to marry a man, Albert Burns, who is a former pirate.

Bryce saves her from this forced marriage and they return to New Orleans, to discover sadly that Clarence has been shot. He is later shot again.

In the end, the secrets Saul and Adam wanted to hide from Natalie are revealed She and Bryce have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

I got through it.

Downside

Passion’s Web contains many of the same literary weaknesses which mark the rest of Mrs. Edwards’ work: shallow, undeveloped characters and storylines; unsatisfactory endings; and way too many exclamation points! At unnecessary times! It’s annoying!

Sex

There are a lot of love scenes. None are as hot as what Mrs. Edwards would come up with for her Native American romances.

Violence

Assault, battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line

There are books I’m glad I got through because I paid for them and can now resign them to the dustbin of history–literally and figuratively. Passion’s Web is one such book.

Siren Song sanjulian

Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis

historical romance review
Siren Song by Roberta Gellis
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Miguel Sanjulian
Book Series: Song Trilogy #1
Published by: Jove, Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

The first book in Roberta Gellis‘s Medieval Song trilogy, Siren Song, takes us to 13th-century England.

Lady Elizabeth

Lady Elizabeth is not a beauty, but she is intelligent, capable, and now heiress to vast lands, with her brothers and father recently deceased.

Elizabeth is married to Mauger, a cruel, murderous lord who wishes for nothing more than to aggrandize himself by whatever means necessary. Mauger has the looks of an angel yet the disposition of a demon. There is no deed too vile for him, as he eagerly breaks every Commandment.

It is no mere coincidence that Elizabeth’s brothers conveniently died, leaving her, and thus Mauger, quite wealthy.

Years ago, Elizabeth had been in love with Sir William of Marlowe, and he was with her. But parental manipulations led to them being forced to wed others. Now, William is a widower with a daughter of soon-to-be marriageable age.

Mauger has eyes on Marlowe and seeks to wed his and Elizabeth’s eldest son, Aubrey, to William’s daughter, Alys. Once the two are married, Mauger has plans for William’s untimely demise.

Sir William

Sir William is a widower of many years and seeks only one thing: to be near to Elizabeth again. She is the only woman he has ever loved. William will do whatever it takes to be with her.

And so he pursues the married Elizabeth, even though it may cost him his life.

Adultery is a cardinal sin in the Church. During the Middle Ages, a woman risked more than just her soul if she committed such an act, no matter what mitigating factors surrounded it.

Thus, it does not matter that Mauger openly flouts his leman in front of his wife, having her reside in their manor acting like a second wife.

Nor does it matter that their parents tricked Elizabeth and William into believing that each had betrayed the other, wedding other people under false circumstances. Evil as Mauger may be, he is Elizabeth’s husband.

William is a wonderful hero in pursuit of his beloved. He’s no dummy, but Elizabeth is his blind spot.

While Elizabeth is dismissed as a mouse by her husband, she is actually a woman of strength and deep and abiding passions.

She and William become lovers and engage in several lusty, furtive love-making sessions, marked by Gellis’s standard earthiness.

As there is only one way Elizabeth and William can be together, the end comes to a satisfyingly violent conclusion.

Final Analysis of Siren Song 

Siren Song had the other major hallmark of Roberta Gellis’ work, a healthy heaping of history.

Yet, it was in no way bogged down by dull recitations of facts and events, like some other Gellis books like Fires of Winter.

The characters were true to their time period in both beliefs and actions. The romance was passionate and convincing.

Mauger was perhaps a bit extreme in his evil, but his wickedness is a huge plot point for Book 3 of the series, Aubrey’s story, Fire Song, which is one of my all-time most beloved romances. Unfortunately, Siren Song doesn’t quite reach those heights for me.

Nevertheless, Siren Song is an entertaining love story that I would heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys authentic history in a historical romance.

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

Synopsis

First in the Royal Dynasty series. William of Marlowe and Elizabeth of Hurley loved each other from childhood and swore to marry no other. Their fathers had more practical and profitable intentions. William was told Elizabeth had gone to Ilmer to be married to Mauger and in his pain and rage took Mary of Bix to wife. Elizabeth, who had withstood starvation and beatings, yielded at last when a priest swore to her William had married Mary. But Mauger had taken Elizabeth for more than her moderate dowry.

Soon her brothers were both dead and Elizabeth was heir to her father’s lands. When Elizabeth’s father died, Mauger moved his family to Hurley. And when he saw the rich lands of Marlowe across the river, he decided to marry his son to William’s daughter, be rid of William, and have Marlowe too. William should have seen through Mauger’s false front, but his heart and mind were paralyzed by the horrible thought of Elizabeth in Mauger’s arms. And he nearly, so nearly, also became Mauger’s victim.

SIREN SONG by ROBERTA GELLIS
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
runaway bride

Historical Romance Review: Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook

runaway bride
Runaway Bride, Rosalyn Alsobrook, Zebra, 1987, John Ennis cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook left a bad taste in my mouth. While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful. Either they were boring or just freaking bizarre.

The Plot

Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness when the hero, Jason, comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy and is even willing to be a father to her child.

Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced her to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.

The book was written to keep you guessing up until the end who she would choose. The heroine genuinely thought that besides beating the hell out of her, her husband was a good man. And maybe at one point in his life, he was, but he let major demons take over, and he ruined that goodness. Fortunately, the heroine ended up with Jason, but the fact that this book even tried to pull a love triangle plot was disgusting. Katherine should have had nothing but hatred for her husband.

And at the final pages of the story, do we see the happiness that Katherine and Jason should have had? Well, sure, they lived a long married life together, but the epilogue was bizarre and floored me. The son of Katherine and her first husband stands at his father’s grave, weeping for him, and pretty much says, “No matter what happened, Dad, you were a great man, and I’m sorry I never got to know how wonderful you were.”

Final Analysis of Runaway Bride

Look, I’m no pearl-clutcher when it comes to controversial issues. I love un-PC bodice rippers. I can deal with a lot of craziness and don’t take offense too much (except boredom). Having a heroine who was in love with her drunk husband who mercilessly beat her was a very difficult pill to swallow. I don’t think Rosalyn Alsobrook handled the topic well.

I remember feeling sick after reading this, and that was 30 years ago. The feeling stays with me to this day when I think about Runaway Wife.

1 Star

terms of surrender jones

Historical Romance Review: Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton

historical romance review
Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #46
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Napoleonic Era Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender was my first Harlequin Historical. This book got me hooked on the series for a long time!

It’s a wonderful gem. Don’t believe me? Just read the seal of approval by historical fiction/romance legend Roberta Gellis on the cover.

The Plot

Terms of Surrender takes place during the post-French Revolution/Napoleonic Era, one of my favorite time periods.

A beautiful Frenchwoman, Julie, is married to an impotent, elderly man who desperately wants an heir.

The husband hires an Englishman to seduce her and impregnate her. Sebastian Ramlin does just that, but not before falling in love.

He pursues a love he knows is impossible. However, he just can’t stay away from Julie!

Although in the end, he must leave her. There is a long separation of twenty years.

The lovers will reunite, but the stakes have changed. Can they make it work?

Towards the latter part of Terms of Surrender, something happens, which shocked me because it was so unusual in the tame romances I read. It was a very unexpected moment in a Harlequin, historical or otherwise.

Napoleon plays a big part in the book, too, so that’s a major plus for me. There’s a twist involving him at the end. I bet you won’t expect what it is!

Final Analysis of Terms of Surrender

If you can get your hands on Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender, do it.

It’s an emotional roller-coaster and quite a little treasure!

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

Lover…or Deceiver?
Julie Farroux had escaped the guillotine by marrying a withered old man who desired her only for her inheritance. Their loveless union had left her believing her heart was as shriveled as his, until she found the warmth of desire in the arms of a handsome stranger. In the glittering city that was Napoleon’s Paris, deception and greed were a way of life.

Sebastian Ramlin had made a devil’s bargain with Julie’s husband … to seduce Julie — and give her husband an heir. But he never planned to fall in love with her. Could he find the courage to reveal his treachery … and risk losing the woman he loved? 

Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton
texas tempest

Historical Romance Review: Texas Tempest by Deana James

historical romance review

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Zebra‘s Texas Tempest features yet another great, steel-willed Deana James heroine. James has written many resilient heroines before. Such heroines include the ones from the seafaring antebellum romance, Captive Angel, and the medieval, Lovespell.

The Heroine

The prologue of Texas Tempest begins with Eugenia Leahy being beaten by her no-good drunkard of a husband, Cormac. When he goes after her daughter, that’s when mama bear springs into action. Eugenia grabs a firearm and shoots him, paralyzing the abuser for life!

We then flash forward 10-15 years later. Eugenia is running her ranch and doing a great job at it. Tough, cold, and stern, Eugenia is known as “The Diamondback,” deadly as her namesake is. But she is still a woman in a world dominated by men. She needs some muscle to enforce her rules.

Enter the mysterious MacPherson, a gunslinger who saves Eugenia’s life. He is exactly the man Eugenia needs.

The action is intense here. On page 75, Eugenia Leahy has shot already three men. You don’t mess with the Diamondback!

As usual, Deana James’ heroines are the major draw of her books.

The Hero

In a Deana James romance, a hero who matches the heroine in greatness is pure icing on the cake. And what a hero he is!

MacPherson was the little boy from Texas Storm. His Comanche father rejected him, declaring him dead. So MacPherson was forced to walk naked, following after his tribe. He lived off their leavings. He was adopted by the protagonists of that book, Reiver MacPherson, and his wife, Mercedes-Maria.

Mac is 5 years younger than the 35-year-old Eugenia. This is a major concern for her since in the mid-19th century older women generally did not have relationships with younger men. Even if they were their secret lovers.

Yes, MacPherson and Eugenia become lovers and except for her husband, their romance has the all-clear. Eugenia’s daughter approves and that’s the only person whose opinion matters to her.

The Plot

As usual in a Deana James book, romance is not the only plot point. Texas Tempest is a high-stakes western drama. There’s a lot of lovemaking. There’s also even more action.

An evil rancher has designs on Eugenia’s land. His men capture Macpherson. They then beat and whip him, before attempting to hang him. Yet he miraculously survives despite all his violent suffering.

The grandee arranges to kidnap Eugenia. Then a whoremonger purchases her. Thankfully, MacPherson is able to save her just in time.

There is a scene where Mac is forced by the villains to hurt Eugenia and it disgusts him.

Like an automaton, MacPherson struck again. Only by remaining absolutely motionless could he control the anger that was rising in him. Far from being aroused by the spectacle, his own feelings were revolted. His own sexuality he recognized as propinquity, tenderness, caring, the beauty, and gentleness of a woman’s body. The infliction of pain, even pseudo-pain, excited him not at all.

So our hero isn’t into dominating BDSM or using force on a woman. MacPherson may be a man of mystery, but he’s very simple in his preference. He has nothing but appreciation and love for the female body. Sex is not entwined with violence for him. Very refreshing for a retro hero.

The main conflict keeping Eugenia and Mac from getting together permanently isn’t her husband because we readers know:

1) Eugenia doesn’t give a damn about Cormac!

and

2) Her ailing, wheelchair-bound husband is going to die in the end, anyway.

It’s when MacPherson’s true heritage is discovered that Eugenia’s insecurities come to the forefront. Not only is MacPherson more than the simple loner she initially thought he was, but then Eugenia feels abandoned by her teenage daughter. The girl finds love with the son of a prosperous Spanish family.

Final Analysis of Texas Tempest

Texas Tempest got a little drawn out for me after the 70% mark, so this enthralling read turned into just a very entertaining one.

Regardless, for me, it’s another 4-star keeper by Deana James. This is one I will have to reread just for how tenacious and capable Eugenia was, a woman of that greatest and rarest of strengths: fortitude.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

SHE NEEDED TO HAVE HIM
Jet-haired Eugenia Leahy was sensuous and slender with an iron will that intimidated even the most powerful of men. Then a handsome stranger rescued her after a bad fall and the steel-hearted beauty suddenly felt soft and vulnerable. With one caress her body yearned to clasp him in an intimate embrace. But Eugenia had struggled too long for independence and vowed to drive away the man who threatened her freedom with the weakness of desire!

HE HAD TO POSSESS HER
When virile, towering MacPherson first saw the petite, fragile form sprawled at his feet, he knew he would ultimately make love to her. His blood clamored to be one with her and his passion rose as never before. Then Eugenia stirred, opening eyes filled with challenge and anger. In that moment, MacPherson resolved to take her soon, whether she consented or not, with all the force and fury of a raging Texas Tempest.

TEXAS TEMPEST by DEANA JAMES
moment of desire

Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

historical romance review
Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrave Payes
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Alan Reingold
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 412
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrave Payes might be an aberration, both for her–I wasn’t fond of The Coach To Hell, the other Cosgrove Payes book I read–and the historical romance genre.

An Anti-Heroine?

This romp was published by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Press. The company churned out bodice-ripping romances and schlocky sci-fi well into the ’70s and early ’80s, part of the second golden era of pulpy trash. And yes, this book is trashy.

Its heroine is so conniving, so cunning, and so single-minded in her pursuits of love and revenge that she made me love this book beyond all logical reason.

After a couple of decades of reading romance, I can’t say I’ve encountered too many heroines like Melusina Wilton, and that’s a damn shame.

The Set Up

Moment of Desire begins as 14-year-old Mellie Wilton, a buxom, blue-eyed blonde, tries to catch the eye of a much older nobleman at a violent bear-baiting.

She worries that her dress may not be low-cut enough to obtain his prurient interest. Unlike other heroines in Romancelandia, Mellie doesn’t bat an eyelid at the sight of animal cruelty. She indifferently laments the fact that she has no money to gamble. (Despite modern perspectives, that’s what bear baitings were for, after all!)

Mellie is youthfully self-centered and cares only for her pleasure.

She lives at the English court, as her mother is a lady-in-waiting to German King George’s wife.

Unfortunately for Mellie, her mother is a real lusty tramp, screwing around with married lords and pissing off their wives. Mellie’s mother shags the wrong woman’s husband, and not even the Queen will aid them.

So Mellie, her mother, and their loyal maid are thrown out into the streets.

The Tawdry Plot

Tragic events result in Mellie being forced to sell her body in a brothel. To her joy (and then horror), her first customer is her beloved crush, who, to her dismay, proves to be no hero.

For months Mellie plies her trade and learns how to entice a man beyond all reason. Meanwhile, Mellie dreams of one day finding her true hero: a man who will take her out of her life of whoredom, bring her to his mansion, drape her in fancy clothes and jewelry and love her faithfully.

And she does. But there is a catch…

Mellie is bought by her beloved john, not for himself, but to wed his openly gay son and be a broodmare for grandchildren. The young son despises Mellie and is accompanied everywhere by his handsome tutor, who’s not so keen on Mellie himself. Despite it all, Mellie sympathizes with her unwilling husband; she may be a tough bitch, but she’s not a heartless one.

What About the Hero?

This is a story of the young, sexy, voluptuous, blonde former hooker finding true love with her older sugar daddy. As a hero, Ritchie Jamison, Earl of Henning, isn’t as fun as Mellie, but he’s no jerk.

Despite a reputation for being a ladies’ man, he doesn’t sleep with anyone other than the heroine. He’s handsome, mature, and rich, although sort of dim and dull.

But because Mellie loves him and Mellie’s so great, I desperately wanted her to get her man!

Who Cares! The Heroine Is the Star of the Book

What is so terrific about Mellie?

Everything! She is who she is, complex yet straightforward. Those she loves are fiercely protected, but those who have wronged her better watch out!

She ends up in ridiculously harrowing situations and plots her way out of them, skillfully succeeding. Mellie is no swooning, foot-stomping, virginal heroine who waits for the hero to save the day.

She kills without flinching. She fights for her man, and the way Mellie plots revenge and crushes her adversaries in such a cruel and calculating manner, it’s such evil fun!

I don’t want to spoil the shock. I was astonished that a heroine could be so remorseless!

Final Analysis of Moment of Desire

Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes was full of amusing spectacles, like a glitzy old-time soap opera.

One quibble, though: the last few chapters are a bit anticlimactic as Mellie has disposed of all her enemies, and there is just one more hurdle to mount before she can find happiness. But if anyone deserves it, she does.

As in the words 1980’s English “pop tart” Samantha Fox: “Naughty girls need love too!”

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis

Beautiful, spirited young Mellie Wilton thought the handsome Earl of Henning was going to rescue her from her degrading life in London and take her to his wealthy estate in Kent because he wanted her for his wife. When he tricked her into marrying his son so that he would have an heir to his fortune, Mellie became enraged. Tormented by a husband who could never love her, yet consumed with desire for the man who had deceived her, Mellie was filled with a burning need for fulfillment and revenge.

MOMENT OF DESIRE by RACHEL COSGROVE PAYES
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,

***

while passion sleeps bennett

Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

historical romance review
While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Reluctant Brides #3, Louisiana #8
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 486
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee made me feel really old. It wasn’t the plot or the characters; it was the actual book itself.

This just-under-500-pages epic is printed in a tiny font on yellowed paper (my edition is 38 years old). Reading it strained my eyes something awful. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, but now things up close are getting blurry. I’ll be going to the eye doctor this week for a new Rx because I need bifocals. *Sigh.* Damn you, the passage of time!

The Hero

Speaking of the passage of time, While Passion Sleeps features a macho hero who would be booed out of Romancelandia if he were to appear in a romance novel today. Rafael Santana, who’s one tough Texan (1/4 American, 1/4 Comanche, and 1/2 Spanish), was kidnapped by the Comanches as a child. He lived with them for years before being rescued by his Spanish relatives.

He is a savage man, torn between two worlds, as he never fully adjusted to polite society. A forced marriage to a cold-hearted woman and several fleeting sexual affairs have jaded Rafael’s perspective about females.

Women were such deceptive little bitches, [Rafael] thought viciously as he kicked his horse into a gallop. They had faces like angels and bodies to drive men wild, and yet they lie, cheated, and would merrily rip a man’s heart from his body for the sheer joy of watching him writhe.

Besides being a founding member of “The He-Man Women’s Hater Club,” he’s capable of and has committed extreme violence:

“I was 12 the first time I went on a raid & yes, I did enjoy it,” Rafael interrupted coolly. “I was 13 when I stole my first horse and scalped my first white man and a year later, I raped my first woman and took my first captive. By the time I was 17, I was raiding w/ the warriors for over five years; I owned fifty horses, had my own buffalo skin teepee, three slaves of my own & several scalps taken by my hand decorated my lance.”

(I can hear the clacking sound of myriad strings of pearls being clutched by the “How dare you!” crowd.)

The Heroine

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is the heroine Beth. A beautiful violet-eyed, platinum-haired Englishwoman (Are there really women who naturally look like that in real life? I’ve yet to see one.), Beth is forced to marry a profligate gambler who drinks too much. Her noble father has no use for her now that he has a new wife and son.

Nathan Ridgeway is handsome and not that bad of a guy despite his errant ways. The problem is Nathan has “teh ghey” and try and try as he might, he just can’t get a chubby for his sweet 16-year-old bride. Only hot, young men will do it for him and Beth ain’t that.

Dismayed at first by the inability to consummate their marriage, he and Beth fall into a contented, platonic arrangement, where Beth capably mages the household affairs. At the same time, Nathan not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours. A whiff of potential scandal hits the air, so the pair hightail it off to the United States to make a new life for themselves.

They move to Louisiana, then later to Mississippi, where eventually Beth, the super-perfect woman, manages a huge plantation that turns a tidy profit, while Nathan again not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours.

while passion sleep ebook

The Plot

Part One

Let’s rewind a bit to their time in Louisiana. There at a ball, Beth’s shimmering violet eyes met the passionate smoky-gray gaze of Rafael Santana. The attraction was instantaneous, leading Rafael to make a crude proposition. Of course, Beth wanted nothing to do with the married Rafael, being an honorable married woman herself, even if her marriage was not quite a “marriage.”

Rafael’s wife was jealous of the pair and arranged for Rafael’s cousin to rape a drugged Beth, then have Rafael come upon the scene. Moments before the cousin could do the deed, an enraged Rafael enters the room, catching what he believes are two lovers in flagrante delicto.

Furious that another man had his way with Beth yet enchanted by her naked body, Rafael becomes maddened with lust. Under the influence of intoxicants, Beth’s only sensation is desire.

She begs Rafael to take her, which he eagerly does. Thinking he’s having sloppy seconds and in a state of anger, somehow Rafael fails to notice that Beth’s a virgin, even though her hymen is still intact. (I always question when this sort of thing happens in romances: how can a man who’s been around the entire neighborhood not notice the major resistance a hymen makes upon entry? These heroes just plow through like it’s made of wet tissue paper.)

Part Two

After their one night of passion, Beth flees in shame. She and Rafael don’t see each other until four years later when Beth decides to travel through Texas to visit an old friend. But, when they meet again, their lust can’t be controlled, and they go at it again. And again. And again!

Rafael’s wife is now dead, and he thinks Beth is a shameless adulteress, beguiling innocent men with her beauty. I’ve never read Gypsy Lady, but for those of you who have, it’s interesting to note that Sebastian, the son of that book’s protagonists, is featured in While Passion Sleeps as Rafael’s cousin. He, too, is mad about the lovely Beth.

Sebastian is the only one who knows the true nature of Beth’s marriage, having witnessed Nathan in bed in the arms of another man. He vows to save Beth from her phony marriage and make her his bride.

Sebastian’s illusions are shattered in a powerful scene after he catches Beth and Rafael in an embrace. Rafael and Sebastian, who are good friends, almost come to blows until Rafael claims Beth is his mistress. Sebastian leaves the field to his cousin; his heart is broken.

Never having felt such deep emotion for a woman before, Rafael is conflicted. Not only is his cousin in love with Beth, but she also had a husband to contend with. Ultimately, he decides to make Beth his and his alone. No matter what, passion will find a way.

An Aside: Language Lesson

I did have an issue with the bad Spanish in While Passion Sleeps.

Rafael’s wife is named Consuela; it should be Consuelo.

Also, Rafael refers to Beth as “mi cara,” which means “my face.” Instead, it should be “querida” as “cara” is Italian for “my beloved.” I’ve seen that mistake so often in older romances when the hero speaks Spanish, especially in Harlequins. Fortunately, Rafael doesn’t call her that too often, preferring to call Beth his “English.”

Please permit me to go over this for a moment. Any romance reader worth their salt should know how to say this to a woman in multiple languages. There are many ways to say “my beloved,” “my dear,” or “my love” in various languages, but here in random order, are the ones I know off the top of my head:

  • Cariad – Welsh
  • Querida – Spanish & Portuguese
  • Cara – Italian
  • Chère – French
  • Habibti (or Habibi) – Arabic
  • Stór – Irish
  • Liebling – German
  • Agápi – Greek
  • Elsket – Norweigian

Okay, the language lesson is over.

My Opinion

Except for my eyes squinting in vain to read the words, While Passion Sleeps was an enjoyable ride. It is a bodice ripper that spans continents and years and has lots of steamy love scenes and plenty of violence. That’s enough for me to like it.

There are times when this book lags, especially during the first half when Beth and Rafael don’t spend much time with each other. For some reason, Busbee went into extreme detail over the most unimportant things, like Beth and her husband traveling from New Orleans to Texas or about Comanche & Texas history. The editing could have been tighter.

Beth and Rafael had crazy, intense chemistry. You feel the heat coming off the pages whenever they are together. The love scenes, while a bit lavender, were sexy as hell. But… that’s all they have.

They don’t really converse, don’t go through shared experiences (except for towards the end), heck they don’t even argue that much. They have sex every chance they get when they’re alone. I would have preferred more time spent together bonding emotionally than physically.

A Mustache Aside

Also, for some reason, I imagined Rafael with a mustache. Busbee makes no mention of one. Yet after reading this scene:

“Let me,” he muttered, roughly. “You are as beautiful there as anywhere, and I want the taste of you on my mouth, the scent of you in my nostrils. Let me!”

I couldn’t picture him without a flavor-saver on his face! Usually, mustaches are a turn-off. However, imagining Rafael as Mexican actor Mauricio Islas, one of the few men who can pull it off, made it all good.

while passion sleeps
Mauricio Islas as Rafael… yummy!

Until I pictured another face. With the show The Mandalorian in the news lately, for some reason, Mauricio’s image kept morphing into actor Pedro Pascal. Nothing against Pedro. He just looks exactly like my cousin Felix! Nice-looking enough, but he’s not my idea of a brutal lover and killer whose cold, pale eyes barely hide the passions which simmer beneath the surface.

while passion sleeps
Pedro Pascal (aka my cousin Felix) as Rafael… Nope!

That’s just my baggage. I’ve got to stop imagining actors as heroes. When the cover (sadly) fell off While Passion Sleeps, I had no guy to look at and did some head casting.

Final Analysis of While Passion Sleeps

This is the third Shirlee Busbee I’ve read and definitely the best of the bunch. While Passion Sleeps has a hero you either love or hate. I loved him in all his pigheaded, dark alpha-ness.

Beth grows as a character. She transforms from a naïve, biddable housewife stuck in a loveless union to a fiery spitfire who endures trauma and hardship.

If Busbee had tightened the manuscript a bit more by reducing the filler and adding more emotionally intimate scenes between Beth and Rafael, this would have been amazing. As it is, it’s still a very gripping read, even if, at times, I did skim a page or two.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

THE LADY: Beth Ridgeway was a violet-eyed platinum beauty — the kind of woman who made men burn with desire. Yet her husband Nathan didn’t want her…

THE ROGUE: Rafael Santana, the darkly handsome and arrogant son of a wealthy Texas family, had been kidnapped by the Comanches and raised as a warrior. Even now, all his gentleman’s breeding couldn’t conceal the savage strength beneath his aristocratic bearing.

THE FURY: Beth thought he was cruel and insensitive, a man who used women only for his selfish pleasure and then tossed them away. Rafael thought she was a common wench — flirtatious and unfaithful — who took pride in breaking men’s hearts.

THE FIRE: Yet something had happened when their eyes first met at a dazzling New Orleans ball. Something their hearts could not deny, something neither the years nor the violent misunderstandings could diminish. Because for the first time, both Beth and Rafael were awakening to the magnificent passions of love.

WHILE PASSION SLEEPS by SHIRLEE BUSBEE