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defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 10 to 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that, with a few exceptions, were all fun reads. Many rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Usually, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, then make passionate love to them and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place, then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little interaction Ranulf and Reina have with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.

Reina

Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed.  Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice, not set it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If, like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model who’s always posing alongside Fabio (Lianna Loggins, I think), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and simply appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, have a blast reading about two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
dreaming of you lisa kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas features one of her most beloved characters, Derek Craven. Derek was previously seen in Then Came You, whose reserved hero, Alex Raiford, was more to my liking. This is a beautiful romance by the talented Kleypas where two people from contrasting social classes come together in love.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Sara Fielding is a novelist in Regency-era England. She’s not ravishingly beautiful, wears spectacles, and is a rather curious woman. Her novels address the fallen people in society. Sara’s out at night in a rough London neighborhood to investigate material for her next book when she comes upon an altercation. She’s able to prevent the man from being killed, although not before his attackers cut him. The man she saves is the aforementioned hero, Derek Craven.

Craven is the owner of London’s most successful gambling house, which doubles as a house of pleasure. Far from being a traditional English lord, he’s as rough as a hero can get. Derek was born illegitimate and grew up on the streets, having to build himself up alone. He’s wealthy but certainly not part of polite society, even if some of his past mistresses are. Craven is snaggletoothed, handsome in an off-beat, rugged type of way, and speaks with a Cockney accent. I picture him as Christian Bale’s character from the film “The Prestige.”

Derek wants nothing to do with the over-inquisitive Sara. Nevertheless, she did save his life, so he owes her a favor. Derek allows Sara into his dark underworld for her research. Sara will meet Derek’s factotum, Worthy, numerous ladies-of-the-evening, and other interesting people at Craven’s.

The Plot

However, it’s the owner of the establishment she’s most keen about. And Derek can’t help but fight his growing tenderness for the innocent miss.

Sara walks around Craven’s with her pencil and notepad in hand, a naive, inquisitive creature. She asks questions about everything, from gambling to the lives of the women who work there to more personal questions about Derek.

Sara is involved with a simpering nabob, so it’s no shock she’s intrigued by the “bad-boy” Derek Craven.

Derek does not like Sara, or at least he wants her to know he feels that way. He pushes her away, despite his desperate attraction to her. Sara’s a hidden beauty with a huge heart, a heart Derek knows he can only break.

dreaming of you lisa kleypas

Because of his background, Derek thinks he’s not the man for any decent woman, especially not Sara. He wants her yet believes he’s not good enough for her.

Indeed, Sara falls for Derek and she does everything to convince him they should be together. Sara goes as far as dressing up for a masked ball at the casino/brothel, something no conventional miss would dare.

Derek has severe issues of inadequacy. He’s done much to better himself, taking language lessons and having a valet–as a proper gentleman should. But a proper gentleman is something he’ll never be. He doesn’t think he deserves Sara’s love and pushes her off to her “fiance.”

There’s also some mysterious peril afoot. Plus, a crazed, over-the-top villainess in the form of Derek’s ex-mistress, Joyce. Derek is done with Joyce, but like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” she “will not be ignored!”

Will the threat of danger be what finally brings Derek and Sara together?

Separately they had different strengths. Together they were complete.

Final Analysis of Dreaming of You

Unlike many of Kleypas’ readers, although I enjoyed this captivating love story, I don’t consider Dreaming of You one of my favorites. That’s no insult since it’s akin to attempting to rank the best British rock band of all time. There are so many greats Kleypas has created over the last twenty-five years.

Kleypas excels at making swoon-worthy heroes. Derek’s protestations of affection for Sara are cruel, but the reader is always aware of how much he desires her. She consumes Derek as no other woman before (or after).

When he does declare his adoration for the lady, be prepared to melt!

I understand why Derek Craven has made so many appearances in Kleypas’ novels. He’s the kind of man you can’t forget. A self-made man who thinks himself unworthy of love and has a heart of gold. Sara is fine; she simply not as exciting to me as her co-star.

If you haven’t read this one, consider putting it on your to-be-read list. It’s a romance that will grab your heart.

4.22 Stars

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

Synopsis

She stood at danger’s threshold—then love beckoned her in.

A prim, well-bred gentlewoman, Sara Fielding is a writer who puts pen to paper to create dreams. But now curiosity is luring her from the shelter of her country cottage into the dangerous world of Derek Craven—handsome, tough, and tenacious—and the most exciting man Sara has ever met.

Derek rose from poverty to become the wealthy lord of London’s most exclusive gambling house. And now duty demands that he allow Sara Fielding to enter his perilous realm of ever-shifting fortunes—with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But there is a hidden strength and sensuality to the lady that captivates him beyond his better judgment.

And in this world, where danger lurks behind every shadow, even a proper “mouse” can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress—and a cynical gambler can be shaken to his core by the power of passion and the promise of love.

DREAMING OF YOU BY LISA KLEYPAS
tabitha in the moonlight

Category Romance Review: Tabitha in Moonlight by Betty Neels

Tabitha in the Moonlight, Betty Neels, Harlequin, 1972, Bern Smith cover art

Harlequin Romance #1905

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Heroine & the Hero

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Tabitha in Moonlight is a Harlequin Romance about an efficient, capable nurse (aren’t they always in these books?) in an elderly men’s ward. She falls for the new temporary surgeon, the Dutch-born, Dr. Marius van Beek. Betty Neels wields the typical doctor-nurse romance into a Cinderella story, with Tabitha starring as the poor, down-trodden stepdaughter who gets no love from her wicked step-mother and step-sister.

Dr. van Beek plays the prince’s role, but fortunately, this Prince is far more astute than his fairy tale predecessor, not requiring a glass slipper to identify his true lady love.

When first we meet Tabitha, she is presiding over her ward, checking on patients in a pleasant, personal manner, going as far as taking care of one old gentleman’s cat. She’s no beauty, as Neels describes her, but with her lovely figure, wide smile, and fabulous hair that she keeps primly knotted up, the reader knows Tabitha is actually a swan in hiding.

The Plot

Tabitha lives in a little flat near work. She’s 25, practically on the shelf, and independent, but quite delf-deprecating. She doesn’t think much of her looks. It’s a shame a plain Jane like herself is the type the handsome new doctor would never be interested in. (sigh)

Years ago, Tabitha had lived with her father in their ancestral home, Chidlake. But upon his remarriage and her entrance into nursing school, she left home. Her father died, and by all rights, the family home should be hers. However, her father left it to his second wife, believing she would pass it on to his daughter. At a weekend visit to Chidlake, Tabitha is shocked to see Dr. van Beek in attendance, with her stepsister draped all over him.

Tabitha’s stepmother is a cruel woman, insulting Tabitha’s looks at every turn. Is it a wonder she feels so insecure when compared to her elegant step-sister?

But make no mistake, Marius is not a cad who chases woman after woman. If they’re drawn to him, it’s because he’s one of those confident, handsome men who excels at his profession. Women highly prize that type of man.

There are a few surprises in store for Tabby. Tabitha finds herself accompanying Marius and a patient on a trip on Marius’ boat and then to Holland. There are quite a few charming side characters in this vintage romance that add to the overall enjoyment.

Final Analysis of The Book

This is a sweet romance about a fairy tale coming to fruition in real life. Dr. van Beek was a great hero. Reserved, cool, but you knew what was going on in his mind, that he adored Tabitha. He’s actually a very nice hero, always praising Tabitha, and trying his best to instore confidence in her.

I could have done without Tabitha’s silly insecurities about her looks. She carried on as if she were a troll. I don’t know if it’s limited solely to books, but it seems so many young women are either woefully insecure about themselves or have too much-misplaced arrogance. Can’t there be a middle ground for self-adjusted women who value their true worth?

That’s a minor quibble, as seeing Tabitha grow into her own and flourish under Marius’ kindness made this romance a delightful treasure.

ODRSO<br /> S@#SSPONSORED AD

the heir cover

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
The Heir by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 2000
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Reid Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Victorian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 416
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

Was this tepid, dull romance actually penned by Johanna Lindsey? The Heir was Lindsey’s first book where I noticed a weird change. Previously, if there was a Lindsey I didn’t like, it was due to a meandering plot or excessive fighting between the leads. There is friendship for sure in this one, but romantic isn’t what I’d call the relationship between Duncan and Sabrina.

The Plot: Friends to Lovers

Duncan, a Highland Scot, is the newly made heir to an English Marquess. Everyone in the county is eager to meet this young laird–er lord–especially the unmarried ladies. Our heroine Sabrina, however, has no designs on Duncan. She’s plump, plain, and orphaned. Sabrina’s not anyone’s ideal candidate for a wife. Certainly not for an heir to a Marquessate.

One of the ladies with eyes on Duncan is the beautiful Miss Ophelia. Ophelia desperately wants to be a Marchioness. She will connive to do whatever it takes to move up the social ladder.

When Duncan and Sabrina meet, there are no sparks. They are cordial to one another, though. A friendship forms between the two outsiders. They meet on walks and talk.

Then, one night–totally out of the blue–Sabrina and Duncan’s relationship turns physical. The pair make love. Boring, boring, love.

Thus, by doing so, Duncan has ruined his dear friend Sabrina.

A Weak Hero With No Backbone

In a shocking twist (not really), Ophelia schemes to make it appear as if Duncan ruined her. So the red-haired idiot decides to do the honorable thing: marry Ophelia, the woman he hates. If Duncan truly had any honor, he would have done right by Sabrina. Instead, he cowardly leaves her in the dust. At only 21, Duncan flounders in areas where a more mature man would have acted differently. I can’t imagine previous Lindsay heroes going along with this stupidity.

Of course, Sabrina says nothing about her part, as she wants no part in a scandal. Plus, boo-hoo, she wasn’t cut out for marriage anyway. She’s so fat! Who in his right mind would want a 140-pound schlub like her? (Yes, folks, that’s sarcasm.)

If it weren’t for the only person in this book with any charisma, Raphael, twisting Ophelia’s arm to break the engagement, Duncan would have married a woman he didn’t have to. A woman he didn’t love but despised! As it is, I wasn’t even sure if Duncan loved Sabrina. They were pals. Yes, they conversed with one another without resorting to bickering, like so many Lindsey leads tended to do. Nevertheless, they lacked chemistry.

I wasn’t fond of most of the characters. Raphael was the lone exception. Sabrina was spineless. Duncan was a squish with an annoying brogue. Ophelia was just a nasty witch who didn’t deserve her own book. Oh yes, she gets paired off with Raphael in The Devil Who Tamed Her.

Final Analysis of The Heir

When I saw Duncan’s mullet hairstyle on the inside of the stepback edition of this book, I cringed. Gone were the halcyon days of Fabio. Even sadder, this was one of Elaine Duillo‘s last covers for Johanna Lindsey. An era was over.

I listened to The Heir on audio cassette while I drove to and from work. That’s the only way I could have consumed this story. Reading it would have been a chore. As it was, that daily one-hour round trip should have passed easily with an audiobook to listen to. But it didn’t–because The Heir was not an engaging romance.

It just was. (Does that make sense?)

After The Heir, I’ve only read one “newer” Lindsey I enjoyed: When Passion Rules. That was a mildly better version of Once A Princess, another book I wasn’t crazy about.

Oh well, Johanna Lindsey had a long run as a writer of wonderful novels that made the historical romance genre exciting. She’s now gone to the great beyond to be with her beloved husband. Lindsey leaves behind a legacy of entertaining romances that made tens of millions of readers giddy with joy. Too bad, for me, The Heir wasn’t one of them.

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
1.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 2.5

Synopsis

Has anyone in London ever taken part in the coming-out Season with less enthusiasm than Sabrina? Luckily, the most sought-after lady in the city has agreed to usher this young, lovely country girl through the perils and pitfalls of her all-important first season.

Dashing highlander Duncan MacTavish is even less keen to be in London. Having recently learned he is the sole heir of an English marquis, Duncan is now required to assume his grandfather’s title and estates—and to marry Sabrina’s ravishing, viper-tongued guide, who has been heard to make scathing statements in public about her “Scottish barbarian” groom-to-be.

His unwanted betrothal, however, has brought Duncan into close proximity with the enchanting Sabrina—a kindred spirit whose wit delights him… and whose essence is the exquisite stuff of dreams. But duty, station, and a secret that dwells in the lady’s past forbid Sabrina’s and Duncan’s desired union—unless true love can somehow miraculously find a way.

The Heir by Johanna Lindsey