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murmur of rain

Historical Romance Review: Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn

If Patricia Vaughn’s follow-up to Murmur of Rain is half as excellent as this book is, then it’s a tragic loss that only a pair of her historical romances saw publication.

historical romance review
Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1996
Illustrator: Dominick Finelle
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Black or Afro American Romance, Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 465
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn


The Book

Books like Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn are why I adore the romance genre. This 1996 novel, published by Pocket Books, caught me by surprise with its mesmerizing storytelling. From the first page, the exquisite prose of this Gothic-tinged historical romance captured my attention.

The heroine is a lovely black French woman, Lauren Dufort, who lives in Paris in 1891. Lauren captures the heart of the cultured and wealthy Roget de Martier with her beauty and talent for music. Later, she is introduced to an exotic world across the sea, where danger looms.

Lauren will discover that beneath the luxury of Roget’s plantation home, Villa de Martier, lies a family history shrouded in darkness. She will be caught in an evil web of familial entanglements where darkness rules the day.

Despite her challenges, Lauren remains determined to reclaim the passion and happiness she and Roget once had. But will murder and death thwart her dreams?

The Setup

Murmur of Rain has a rich cast of characters whose lives we encounter throughout Lauren and Roget’s love story. When the book opens, an awful tragedy will impact the heroine’s life.

A run-away trolley roars down the street and crashes into a group of pedestrians. One unfortunate woman is crushed under the wheels and horses’ hooves. The woman had been carrying a babe in her arms, and before the trolley ran her over, she instinctively threw her child into the crowd. As if guided by Providence, an onlooker was able to catch the child.

A boy watching the horrible events recognizes the dying African woman as the wife of a local French clerk.

The clerk, Jean Dufort, arrives too late and sobs as he sees his wife’s broken body. The woman who saved his daughter passes the infant into her father’s arms. As the weeping Jean embraces his child, he realizes he must do all that’s possible for his daughter to prosper now that her mother, Ndate, is dead.

The babe is our heroine, Lauren Dufort, who grows to be a stunning young lady.

The Plot


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Lauren Dufort, Our Heroine

After the opening, Lauren stands on the docks of Le Havre, about to set sail to the Caribbean with her new husband, Roget. Patricia Vaughn weaves in and out of the “present” and the past with flashbacks for the reader to relive Lauren’s and Roget’s whirlwind romance.

Lauren’s father was not wealthy, but he worked hard to send her to a fine boarding school. There, Lauren feels like an outsider due to her poor station. Although she has a friend or two, her only joy is learning to play the piano, and she becomes an accomplished performer.

Soon after Lauren leaves school, her father passes away. She goes to live with his sister, Claude, who runs a popular hôtel. Claude throws lavish parties that attract an eclectic array of customers.

The older woman loves her niece dearly but knows Lauren’s future holds few possibilities for happiness. As mulâtresse with soft seal-brown curls, honey-gold skin, and hazel eyes, Lauren is stunning. Nevertheless, her racial heritage precludes her from meeting a marriageable man of quality.

So Lauren uses her talent as a pianist to support herself in her white aunt’s hôtel. It is only during those moments that Lauren does find that elusive happiness.

An Unlikely Proposal of Love

When alive, Jean Dufort had bemoaned the unfairness of his daughter’s few opportunities, despite her beauty, excellent manners, and good education. If Lauren had been male, more avenues would have been open to her in French Society (as had been for the biracial grandson of a slave, Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, and for his son as well).

But as a mixed-race black woman, much of polite Society was closed to her.

One night a handsome, elegant man dressed in finery and accompanied by gentlemanly friends comes to the hôtel. Transfixed, he watches Lauren perform. She, too, is immediately enchanted by this glorious male and hopes he returns to see her perform again.

The gentleman does just that and introduces himself to Lauren as Roget de Martier of Haiti.

Roget and Lauren cannot deny their attraction to one another. He sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and they hastily marry. Lauren is on cloud nine, ecstatic and in love, thinking little of the world she leaves behind as she and Roget set sail for his plantation home.


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Arrival in The Land of High Mountains

At first, Lauren is excited to see Villa de Martier and only dreams of the pleasure she and her husband will share there.

However, beneath the affluent exterior of the plantation lies a troubled family history. Roget has two brothers, the older and menacing Gaston–who is married to the well-pedigreed Reinette–and the younger, effete, and very unmarried Antoine. Also residing at Villa de Martier is their mother, Madame de Martier, a widow of eleven years, whose secret drinking habit is perhaps the worst-kept of the family’s many secrets.

As the second son of one of Haiti’s most prominent families, Roget shocks everyone when he introduces his bride–a mulatto with no name or fortune–to Haitian Society. Due to her origins as a daughter of an African slave and a French nobody, Lauren finds herself ostracized by the class-conscious elite.

Moreover, she struggles against Roget’s overbearing relatives. Lauren is used as a pawn in the games of familial strife. Far from finding a loving home, evil lurks everywhere at Villa de Martier. There is hostility from all corners, although she finds an ally in Antoine, who has his own secrets.

And then there is Lucienne, Roget’s erstwhile lover. Or is she still his current mistress?

The Specter of le Diable

Within the Haitian nights’ darkness is the creeping specter of demonic elements. Is someone using voodoo to harm the family? When unpredictable deaths hit close to home, the danger must be rooted in occult forces!

As troubles set in, a divide grows between Lauren and the husband she desperately adores. She experiences Roger’s cold neglect even as she carries out her assigned duties at the plantation. This estrangement allows for lust-crazed Gaston to do his worst to Lauren.

Yes, the heroine is raped in this book–not just by her lecherous brother-in-law. Later, a furious Roget brutally forces himself upon his adoring wife, proving that he, too, is as monstrous as dark creatures that dwell within the jungle depths.

Lauren’s determination and faith in what is right keep her motivated. She can forgive her husband’s ill-use of her; she can overlook his infidelities. However, she cannot live with his contempt and lack of love for her.

Roget avoids her and lets others oppress her. Yet Lauren is unwilling to abandon her love for him. She vows to conquer the demons that haunt him and reclaim their passion.

Can she uncover the heart of the mysteries that haunt the Villa de Martier? And can she make her marriage a lasting, happy one, despite all the obstacles they face?

A devastating force of nature eventually drives home the reality of life: that all things must come to their eventual end.

Heat Level

Although there are numerous love scenes (let’s not mention those instances of forcible rape) in Murmur of Rain, they are not explicit in detail. Instead, the scenes focus on emotion and intensity.

Steam Factor: Not Tropical like Haitian Summers, but Warm like French Springs.

patricia vaughn

My Opinion

A Tiny Quibble

Murmur of Rain is lovely, although not without flaws. Perhaps Vaughn’s euphemistic writing is a bit florid during the love scenes. Like any good Gothic/Bodice Ripper author, she peppers her sentences with a heaping helping of adjectives.

I didn’t mind any of this, as a well-told story beats technically perfect writing any day. It just needed a teeny bit of trimming to be perfect. None of that changed my perception of this beautiful Gothic-Bodice-Ripper-Black-romance.

And Now A Hefty Dose of Praise

Vaughn’s attention to detail brings the exotic and lush world of Haiti and France to life. She delves deep into cultural nuances, political systems, economy, and Society while also exploring the disparities between wealthy sectors and those with fewer means.

Readers learn about other important aspects of Haitian cultures, such as slavery practices and how men of European heritage had mistresses and “wives” through the Plaçage system. We see why Haiti’s rainforests were destroyed to produce lumber, leaving the land vulnerable to floods and depleted of essential nutrients for farming.

I loved reading how the sweet Lauren drew the cultured and enigmatic Roget de Martier under her spell with her music. She was so content on the ship as they sailed to Haiti, believing in a bright future where nothing could upset their joy.

But if there’s “insta-luv” in the opening chapters, the story must have exciting conflict to make it worthwhile. Well, there certainly is here!

Despite many obstacles, Lauren is unwilling to abandon her love for Roget and vows to conquer the demons that haunt him and the danger that permeates Villa de Martier.

The plot is full of mystery, causing one to wonder why Roget behaves as he does. Only little by little is the truth revealed. All in all, this is an exciting and unputdownable read.

Murmur of Rain is a must-read for those who love epic historical novels that feature heroines with grit, many twists and turns, plus themes that examine some darker aspects of human relationships.

brown rope tangled and formed into heart shape on brown wooden rail

Final Analysis of Murmur of Rain

Like the exceptional Teresa Denys, Patricia Vaughn only published two historical romances. Both ladies’ books are out-of-print, hard to find, and a bit pricey if you do. Murmur of Rain is worth getting if you can.

The Gothic tone, the bodice-ripper elements, the delicate yet resilient heroine, the vivid characterization, the attention to historical attitudes and details, and the intense love story combined to make a remarkable and compelling tale—a powerful testament to Patricia Vaughn’s skills as a novice author.

Simply put, Murmur of Rain is a must-read for anyone who loves a captivating and emotionally charged romance.

“You make love like a demimondaine, fall on your face like a school girl, and still manage to behave like a lady in the salon. My ancestors will probably rise from their graves…but ma chérie, I would not trade you for all the black gold in Haiti. I want to live with you, make love with you, fight with you, and die with you…if our Father in heaven so desires.”

Lauren’s graceful fingers closed around his, and as their hands clung to each other in an embrace, Lauren knew heaven had granted him that wish.

Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn
Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


He gave her an illustrious name, a vast plantation, and a steamy paradise…but at which price? In the lush tropics, a mysterious family, intrigue, and sinister forces threaten to tear apart a love beyond compare…

For a young woman with limited marriage prospects, Paris in the 1890s was hardly an easy place to survive. But Lauren Dufort, headstrong, lovely, and bursting with life, could rely on her exquisite gift as a pianist to sustain herself. When her fingers alight into a moving rhapsody, Lauren is the enchantress…until one evening she draws a man into her spell who will change her life forever.

Cultured, enigmatic, strong and sensuous as a panther, Roget de Martier sends Lauren into a furious tumult of passion, introducing her to an exotic world far across the sea. But beneath the opulent exterior of the Villa de Martier lies a troubling family history and a menacing cast of characters with a penchant for evil.

Caught in a web of familial decay, ostracized from the class-conscious elite, Lauren is soon cut off from her beloved husband who has apparently deceived her. Unable to abandon so powerful a love, Lauren vows to conquer the demons that haunt her husband and reclaim the passion and the glory that is theirs alone…

Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn
sweet savage surrender sivavec

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett
Rating: half-star
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Diane Sivavec
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett


The Book

Sweet Savage Surrender, a Zebra Lovegram that was written by mother-daughter duo Marcia Hockett and Kathryn Kramer, aka Kathryn Hockett, is a romance between two star-crossed lovers from different worlds.

It, unfortunately, includes a hated trope of mine, instant love. “Insta-luv,” or love at first sight, is acceptable if and only if there are exciting obstacles the couple has to overcome.

Oh, there are obstacles here, all right, but boring ones.

A Preamble

I always appreciate a Native American romance that attempts to delve deeply and respectfully into the cultures of the people written about. At least, I thought I did until I realized without an engaging plot or romance to go with said respect, the novel comes off pandering and weirdly self-debasing.

Was Sweet Savage Surrender so terrible to deserve my scorn, then? Scorn, no! However, it was incredibly dull, sad to say. The romance is lacking, as the main characters fall in love right away and don’t spend much time together. Everyone is so black-and-white here. The good guys are perfect and the baddies are very bad.

Instant Love and Not Much Else

Sky Raven of the Arapaho People is a half-Native, Half-American woman with fair skin and blue eyes. I don’t know where those blue eyes came from. I know Mendelian genetics alone no longer applies to eye color, but I always thought one has to have recessive genes on both parents’ sides to get blue eyes. Green or hazel would have made more sense.

Anyway, Sky Raven comes upon an injured Anglo-American soldier being held captive by her enemy tribe, the Utes. She arranges to save the man and then nurses him back to health. As her grandfather is her tribe’s medicine man, this knowledge comes easy to Sky Raven.

The soldier is Major John Hanlen of the United States Army. He takes one look at Sky Raven and is instantly smitten. It doesn’t take long before Sky Raven feels the same way about the Yankee soldier.

“The spirits have brought us together. This was meant to be. I love you, Skyraven,” declares Major John Hanlen at 17% into this dull read.

Some Hot Pipe Action

If this book had anything interesting about it, I would have added a half star. Alas, even the sex is snoozerific.

Foreplay includes SkyRaven describing the Arapaho peace pipe ceremony, which turns John Hanlen on:

“Explain more about the ceremony and your beliefs so that I can understand.”
“The peace pipe is our most sacred possession. It is really the heart of all our sacred ceremonies…”

“And could this peace pipe ceremony help to bring harmony between your people and my soldiers?”

“I believe it could be so. The spirits want there to be peace or they would never have led me to you.” Her soul knew the gentle power of love. His caress upon her was an affirmation of life and contentment.

“I care very deeply for you,” he said softly. There was no doubt in his mind as he looked into the innocent, sincere questioning eyes looking up at him. He did have deep feelings for this beautiful, brave young woman that went beyond his gratitude for having saved his life.

“And I, you,” she managed to say before his lips were again upon her own, tasting the honey, the sweetness, and the softness…

The Conclusion to This Boring Romance

John Hanlen returns to his army and tries his best to get them not to go after the Arapaho. But there’s a commanding officer named Colonel Chivington who hates the tribe and will stop at nothing to destroy them.

So the big obstacle in this romance is that he wants to exterminate the Arapaho and John Hanlen has to stop it from happening.

Sky Raven waits among her people waiting for John Hanlen to arrive (That’s what Sky Raven calls him, not John, but John Hanlen. It got pretty weird during intimate scenes where she calls him by his full name.)

Will he be able to prevent Chivington from wiping out the Arapaho people? Will true love have its day?

Wait! More Minor Irritations…

Rather than focusing on romance, I’ll just note some nits I have to pick with this book:

Nocturnal animals out in the daytime:

“The beaver was busily building a new home for themselves, the squirrels were storing food in a hole in a tree, a large mother raccoon was teaching her kits…”

A mother raccoon with her babies out in the day? Maybe just before dusk, not in broad daylight. They could be rabid.

“There was an old Arapaho saying that Skyraven thought of now. ‘Let tomorrow take care of itself.’”

Didn’t the Bible say that? Yup, I checked. It’s in Matthew 6:34. Okay, I’ll ignore that because Hockett was probably trying to demonstrate how similar Arapaho are to European-descended Americans.

The word “thug” was used, and it took me out of place. I know from my 9th grade Social Studies “thug” referred to a certain criminal element from India in the 1800s, not to Native Americans of that same time period.

People shake their heads yes. I nod my head yes and shake it no. Okay, maybe body language was different in post-Civil War America.

These are minor irritations, but honestly, they were the most interesting facets of this read.

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Surrender

In its attempt to be a respectful tale about the Arapaho people–a noble intent, which is admirable–Sweet Savage Surrender forgot to add a little spice to its sweetness. The villains are one-dimensionally evil, and the good guys are one-dimensionally good. It’s very paint-by-numbers and boring.

Sky Raven and John Hanlen fall in love right away, then spend most of Sweet Savage Surrender separated as he tries to prevent atrocities from being committed against her people. He succeeds, and they meet up and live happily ever after.

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you enjoy romances where the love story takes a back seat to the action and history. Then again, there’s not much action here, either, just talking, worrying, and introspection. This was not a fun book to experience.

Rating: 1/2 Star (The cover points don’t count!)

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 1.3


With skin of creamy satin and hair of ebon silk, Skyraven was the pride of her Arapaho tribe. But the voluptuous maiden had not yet met the warrior who could stir her blood… until the day she came upon the golden-haired man in the clearing — a man as sleek and powerful as the most magnificent brave. She quickly freed the handsome stranger from the cruel bonds that held him captive… only to succumb to his seductive charms once he’d regained his awesome strength. And though their passion was forbidden, the hot-blooded half-breed soon burned for the fiery rapture of her lover’s embrace!

After his capture by the Utes, Major John Hanlen thought death was a heartbeat away. Instead, he opened his eyes to see an enchanting, indigo-eyed angel sweetly tending his wounds. He knew he shouldn’t jeopardize his peace-seeking mission by making love to the young beauty, but just the sight of her aroused him to distraction! And once he’d tasted the secret sweetness of her deepest desires, he became her willing slave, yearning only to savor, again and again, her Sweet Savage Surrender…


dakota flame sonya t pelton zebra

Historical Romance Review: Dakota Flame by Sonya T. Pelton


The Book – Dakota Flame

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

The Plot

Part 1: Savage Journey

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

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

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

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

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

Part II: Precious Fire

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

Part III: Savage Angel

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

Part IV: Lost Embrace

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Bottom Line on Dakota Flame

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


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

Location: Mankato, Minnesota. South Dakota.

Time Frame: Late 1862-1863.

2.52 Stars


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

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

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

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

marriage on the rebound

Category Romance Review: Marriage on the Rebound by Michelle Reid

category romance
Marriage on the Rebound by Michelle Reid
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1997
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1973
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon

Category Romance Review: Marriage on the Rebound by Michelle Reid


The Book

Michelle Reid’s Marriage on The Rebound is about keeping it all in the family. Shaan Saketa is unique for a Harlequin Presents circa 1998 heroine, as she’s of mixed ethnic heritage: English and Lebanese. Otherwise, she’s like most other female main characters found in the land of these category romances. Shaan is young (not yet 23), a virgin, and an orphan.

And it’s her wedding day. Unfortunately for Shaan, she’s about to be dumped at the altar.

The Plot

Shaan is in her wedding dress when her fiancé’s brother and former boss, Rafe Danvers, comes to her with a “Dear John” letter. Her husband-to-be, Piers, says he can’t marry her because he’s in love with another woman.

Shaan is dejected, and her family is certain that there’s more than meets the eyes to this abrupt breakup. Rafe, ever the responsible fellow, is determined to help Shaan save face. He steps in and urges her to marry him. In shock, Shaan goes through the motions.

Rafe gives Shaan no time to think as she whisks her off to Hong Kong. As a way to help Shaan get over her turmoil, Rafe puts her secretarial skills to work, makes her go on shopping sprees, and socialize with his friends.

Why is Rafe so concerned about Shaan’s emotional state? Although Shaan remains unaware, it’s no secret to the reader: he’s suffering from a huge case of unrequited love.

It turns out Rafe fell for Shaan at first sight when they had a meet-cute after she bumped into him, causing a big paper-spill. Unfortunately, Rafe could not act on his feelings, as he had to deal with business matters. His younger brother, who was always jealous of Rafe, moved in to romance her. When Rafe returned, Shaan and Piers were a devoted couple.

But Shaan has no idea about Rafe’s adoration for her. She’s under the misapprehension that Rafe didn’t think a mixed-race girl of lower-class status was good enough for his brother. Sparks fly, but at the same time, Shaan can’t help but appreciate Rafe’s strong, capable demeanor. And once she takes notice of his good looks, things take a turn for the sensual.

Over time, Shaan finds herself falling for Rafe, but can she trust him? And what about Piers? Are her feelings for him gone forever?

Marriage on the Rebound,
Marriage on the Rebound, Michelle Reid, Harlequin, 2019 reissue

Final Analysis of Marriage On the Rebound

Michelle Reid, along with Lynne Graham and Miranda Lee, was one of the better authors to come out from the Harlequin Presents line in the early 1990s. Marriage on the Rebound is an example of her fine writing skills. Reid excels at creating vividly erotic scenes.

I enjoy the torn-between-two-brothers trope for some reason, even though I can’t say the same when it’s two sisters and one man. Rafe is a wonderful hero, stoic yet vulnerable. I found the plot to be well-executed.

Although I wasn’t sure Shaan was as in love with Rafe as he was with her. She is clearly on the rebound, as the book’s title says. Certainly, there’s an attraction there. Is she truly in love? It’s up to the reader to determine, but one thing’s for certain, Rafe and Shaan are hot for each other.

I’d rate Michelle Reid’s Marriage on the Rebound a solid 4, as it does make for a satisfying read.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.1


Jilted at the altar!

Shaan Saketa has heard the words before but never thought they would apply to her. Humiliated and alone, she stands facing a thousand guests when her boss, ruthless tycoon Rafe Danvers, makes a shocking proposal. Suddenly she finds herself married to the wrong man and whisked away on a honeymoon!

Rafe has always suspected that there was more to his mousy secretary than meets the eye, and he’s right. But as he indulges in exquisite nights little does he know that Shaan is wondering just how ruthless he really is and just how far he went to have her in his bed! 

Sarina by Francine Rivers

Historical Romance Review: Sarina by Francine Rivers

historical romance review
Sarina by Francine Rivers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Morgan Kane
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 408
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Sarina by Francine Rivers


The Book

Sarina is a bodice ripper-lite written by Francine Rivers, the best-known and most successful author of Christian-centered or “inspirational” romances. This romance is set in mid-19th century California, a time of radical changes.

Some Things We Don’t Talk About In Public

This book was written before Rivers became “born again.” However, she was nominally Christian at the time. Rivers has tried to distance herself from her first 11 books, including Sarina, dismissing them as:

“BC (before Christ) books. They are all out of print now, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.” 

FRANCINE RIVERS, regarding her first 11 romance novels

She purchased the rights to all those and will never allow them to be republished as she feels they don’t represent her faith today.

As a free speech proponent, I think it’s unfortunate that Rivers has deemed these books verboten. Furthermore, I disagree that their sexually explicit content dishonors Christianity.

WARNING! I Talk Religion Here, Sort Of

A Non-Church Goer Goes to Church

I worked for a small company many years ago where the boss’s wife (BW) took a friendly liking to me. She was Evangelical, and I was a lapsed Catholic (My mother worked for this company, too & BW was close to her. So Mami told her about my “lack of faith,” which they both found disturbing.).

Long story short, I got hoodwinked into attending a two-day, one-night religious revival at a local hotel. Gathered to worship, there were hundreds of people. I’m Hispanic (Dominican heritage), and I’d say the racial makeup there was 80% European-American, 10% African-American, and 10% Mixed/Other. For two tedious days, I sat through mass, concerts, prayers, and a couple of conferences. It was charismatic-based: laying of hands, people speaking in tongues, collapsing, crying, etc.

I felt…uncomfortable. I had no patience for the ceremonial Catholic Mass as a child: Sit, rise, sit. Kneel, rise, consume the Eucharist. Kneel, sit, rise, kiss a stranger, sit. Rise, wait for twenty minutes while churchgoers socialize, go home, take off church clothes, and see if any good cartoons are on TV.

Mass had been dull but at least predictable. This was strange to me.

Sex and Religion

Anyway, the best part of that weekend (besides the rum cocktail I was able to sneak during a rare minute of solitude) was a panel given by a Black married couple who talked about the importance of sex in Christian matrimony. They did not speak obscenely but openly and honestly, and yes, biblically. The couple talked about how sacred sex is and how physical bonding reinforces spiritual bonding in a marriage. They spoke about the equal pleasure both men and women receive in sex and how it joins two people together just as much as faith and children and everything else that matters.

I sat fascinated. This spoke to me! Finally, something that had actual utility!

However, like George Costanza, I can sense discomfort in other people. I saw it in that audience through the awkward expressions and the fiddling of hands. Afterward, the couple asked if anyone had questions, which no one did. The session ended, and the room quickly emptied out. No one remained to chit-chat with the speakers–as was usual with these panels–except for me, who complimented them on a speech well done.

My Point, And I Do Have One

The point of that extemporaneous babbling–and there is a point–is from this non-adherent’s perspective, sex and Christianity do go hand in hand. It’s lamentable that Rivers views her “BC romances” through a lens of shame. She now writes works that, in my estimation, preach to the choir rather than spread the Word to “unbelievers,” for lack of a better term.

I am a believer. Although I’m not entirely sure about what.

Now, About the Book!

Sorry for all that. You know me and my meanderings. So, let’s focus on the plot of Sarina and my opinion of the book.

Sarina Azevedo-Cahill is the daughter of a Californio family who’ve lived in southern California for centuries. Her father, Dale Cahill, married into the Azevedo family to take control of those lands. The time is the 1850s, and new American settlers are moving into the newly-minted 31st state by the droves.

Sarina’s father, also known as El Señor, is a stern, cruel patriarch who gives his daughter no affection. Their ranch Vallecitas and his legacy are all he cares for. Sarina tries to be a dutiful daughter but finds herself butting heads with her father instead.

The hero is Lang Rossiter, the son of an Anglo family that runs the neighboring Val Verde ranch. Incidentally, El Señor would love to have the Rossiter lands, as they would combine with Vallecitas to form the greatest ranch in the area.

Sarina and Lang first meet while out riding alone. There is an instant attraction between the two. They arrange to meet again. However, when they are caught in a compromising position, Lang becomes furious with Sarina, accusing her of arranging a setup. Obviously (insert eye-roll here), she’s scheming with her father to snag Val Verde.

Lang’s enchantment with her turns into bitterness. He’s a big dick and becomes an even bigger dick before he gets nicer.

A Marriage Made Neither In Hell Nor In Heaven

So, their families force Sarina and Lang to marry. Sarina finds herself tied to a man who is attracted to her but resents her. Lang is at times incredibly cruel to Sarina, who fights back with a resilient will (until the end of the book, where both she and Lang get personality transplants).

Despite their rocky beginning, Sarina and Lang find unity through their passion and faith, which helps them through strife. During a sensually charged love scene, when they finally come together after those rough patches, the ever-dominant Lang places Sarina’s hands upon his body and tells her: 

“A woman has the real power…” 

And then they erotically wash each other before engaging in passionate love-making. 

“A kind of baptism. Washing away the past and beginning again.”

Final Analysis of Sarina

Sarina is a wonderful romance. Lang and Sarina’s tale is of a love transformed from innocent sweetness to resentment to a lifelong bond affirmed in myriad ways.

The two stern heads of the different families receive nuanced characterization. Well represented here are the politics and contentiousness between the old Spanish families and the new Americans. (I do question the authenticity of the name Azevedo as a Spanish surname because I’ve always thought it was Portuguese, but that’s a minor quibble.)

Lang and Sarina’s faith helps fortify them during difficult times in the story. Religion is not hamfistedly inserted anywhere. It plays a historically accurate and natural part in their story, just as Sarina’s complicated relationship with her father does.

I do not understand why Rivers feels that her “BC” romance Sarina is a misrepresentation of Christianity. Actually, I think I do, but that would require a much more extended essay.

Suffice it to say, if you can get your hands on this hard-to-find book, give it a chance. It may surprise you as it did me. And that’s a good thing.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4


Fiery Sarina Azevedo was a Californio, with a heart as wild and proud as the magnificent untamed land she loved. Yet her desire and her destiny were both denied her. Her first love was the land, Vallecitas, the magnificent ranch that was her birthright.

But fate had drawn her into the demanding arms of her father’s bitterest enemy, Lang Rossiter, the land-hungry Anglo whose touch set her smoldering passions aflame…

There was only one way Sarina could have them both: the land that was her legacy, and the man her body and soul cried out for…and though her father, el senor, would never forgive her, she would defy her very heritage to seize the happiness she knew love promised…


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Rose by Patricia Hagan

Midnight Rose, Patricia Hagan, Harper Collins, 1991, Sanjulian cover art

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Patricia Hagan’s Midnight Rose is a rather entertaining romance novel. Featuring a strong-willed heroine named Erin, she has an evil slave owner for a step-father and a mother who hides a secret that could destroy them all. Her mother is biracial: half-black, half-white. That fact must be concealed from society, as it could lead to ruination for Erin and her family.

Hero Ryan pursues Erin with a passionate intensity. He does not want her to be his wife but his mistress, as he already has a respectable woman lined up for marriage. Through Erin’s mother’s machinations, it results that Ryan and Erin must get married, and from there on the drama really ramps up.

There are wicked relatives on both sides, making life difficult. When Ryan finds out about Erin’s secret, he does his best to protect her from the bad guys. Good plotting, although it was a tad abrupt at the end, which left me wanting more.

wicked loving lies rosemary rogers

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Book Series: Challenger #1/ Morgan-Challenger #3
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 663
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers


The Book

Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is her fourth and–in my opinion–her best book. This is peak bodice ripper fun; it’s salacious, entertaining, and attempts (and succeeds) at profundity.

I’ll probably rewrite a more in-depth analysis of this historical romance at another time. For now, here are my reading notes assembled into a semblance of a review.

His lips touched the back of her neck and moved along her stubborn shoulder. One hand stroked her breasts, and the other moved unerringly between her thighs; he found the most sensitive part of her and moved against her and in her until her half-formed protests turned into soft, stifled moans.


The Story

Readers, do these plot points sound fun to you?

  • Traveling to almost every continent in the world
  • Affairs with noblemen, warriors, and even Napoleon!
  • Being a criminal on the run
  • Highwaymen, high seas action, and harems
  • Buttsecks
  • Getting branded with your husband’s initials after he bangs you in front of your new lover… And then said lover gets so aroused, he bangs you afterward!

If you have a high threshold for triggering issues like:

  • Overbearing alphas,
  • Forced seduction
  • Forced marriage of convenience
  • Adultery
  • Rape
  • Slavery
  • Racism
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Divorce
  • Abandonment
  • A mother having her only child taken away from her

Plus, enjoy a hefty dose of second-wave feminism from a heroine who goes to hell and back several times over…

If any of this sounds like your idea of a thrilling read–because it certainly is–then Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers might be a book you’d want to pick up.

wicked-loving-lies-rosemary rogers2014
Wicked Loving Lies,
Rosemary Rogers, Mira, 2014 re-issue

My Opinion

As far as I’m concerned, this is Rosemary Rogers at her prime.

Some parts of Wicked Loving Lies were scorching hot, like Chapter 17. Other parts were heartbreaking. Many parts were shocking.

There’s only one thing this book NEVER is: boring!

That’s what I loved about these the best of these older romances, there was always so much stuff going on you never had time to overanalyze and nitpick, you just kept moving.

Rosemary Rogers knew how to write a page-turner.

The Proto-Feminist Heroine

“Oh damn men and their superior ways. From now on I’ll stand on my own two feet and fight for what I want–anyway I have to, with my body and my wits… Why not? It’s a man’s world, what other choice do you leave a woman who possesses a mind?


Those words are from Marisa, the heroine of this amazing, action-packed bodice ripper by the Original Great, the legendary Rosemary Rogers.

Marisa is a heroine you want to smack or shake or hug or give a big old high five.

She’s amazing as she never gave up, even though life kept coming at her with no remorse. Except for when she thought her beloved Dominic was dead.

And even then, Marisa was not going out without taking someone else with her.

Final Analysis of Wicked Loving Lies

Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is an excellent experience for bodice ripper enthusiasts but not for the faint of heart.

This book will shock you. I loved it!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


Born of scandal and denied his birthright, Dominic Challenger took to the sea, charting his own future. A true rogue, Dominic answers to no one, trusting only himself. Until Marisa.

Born of wealth and privilege, Marisa is a prisoner to her father’s expectations. When the sanctuary she has found behind the walls of a convent is threatened by the news that her father has arranged for her to marry, Marisa flees…right into the arms of a pirate.

From the safety of a sheltered convent to a sultan’s harem, from the opulence of Napoleon’s court to the wilds of the new frontier, Marisa and Dominic brave all that they encounter in this thrilling age: intrigue, captivity and danger. And above all, an enduring passion that ignites into an infinite love.