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kiss of the night wind

Historical Romance Review: Kiss of the Night Wind by Janelle Taylor

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Kiss of the Night Wind, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1989

MILD SPOILERS 😉

This review is of Kiss of the Night Wind, #3 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor published by Zebra.

The Plot

Kiss of the Night Wind opens with the heroine of the book, Carrie Sue Stover, trying to outrun her past Carrie Sue’s brother, Darby, is the leader of an outlaw gang, which she also ran with.

Tired of looking over her shoulder and worrying about being arrested, jailed, or worse, Carrie Sue decides to take on the persona of Carolyn Sarah Starns, a schoolteacher on her way to Tucson, Arizona.

The real Carolyn was killed in an accident caused by the Stover gang attacking the stagecoach she was on.

As Carrie Sue makes her way to Arizona, the stagecoach she’s on is attacked. Saving her is T.J. Rogue, the hero of the book, who is also going to Arizona. His reasons, however, are different than Carrie Sue’s.

Carrie Sue arrives in Tucson and soon finds herself having to fend off Martin Ferris, a wealthy, lecherous businessman who believes the new schoolmarm owes him more than gratitude. Before she can begin teaching, however, Carrie Sue’s past catches up with her, and she and T.J. are on the run. They also become lovers.

As the book goes along, we learn a great deal about both Carrie Sue and T.J.’s pasts, both of which are filled with tragedy. We also learn that they have a common enemy, evil rancher Quade Harding.

T.J. and Carrie Sue leave Arizona after wanted posters of her emerge. They are pursued by Ferris, who is later killed by T.J. As they make their way to Texas, Carrie Sue becomes suspicious of T.J.; especially since he asks lots of questions about Darby.

Carrie Sue reunites with Darby and discovers that a copycat gang, led by the villain she and Darby are trying to defeat, is committing crimes claiming to be the Stover gang. That gang is led by the man the Stover siblings have been trying to defeat for years.

Carries Sue tries to get Darby to go straight. The efforts fail, and when Darby and most of his gang are captured, Carrie Sue is shot and seriously wounded. After Carrie Sue’s wounding, T.J. fakes her death and plans to take her to Montana and marry her to start a new life.

In the end, the plans change. Carrie Sue and T.J. marry, decide to go to Colorado instead-the reasons are germane to the plot, so I won’t reveal them- and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Mrs. Taylor has written a book with a strong hero and heroine in T.J. and Carrie Sue, both of whom are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor is also a great atmospheric writer; she puts me into her situations with her characters, as opposed to making me feel that I’m simply reading about them.

Downside

While Mrs. Taylor is a great situational writer, at times during this book, I felt like she was writing to a word count, as the descriptions went on and on and on.

The bigger issue for me was the fact that there are A LOT of similarities between Kiss of the Night Wind and the book that preceded it, Passions Wild and Free. To wit:

The heroines both have unisex names; in Passions Wild and Free, the heroine’s name was Randee; in Kiss of the Night Wind, it’s Carrie Sue.

The heroines believe the heroes–Marshall Logan Jr. in Passions Wild and Free, T.J. Rogue in Kiss of the Night Wind–are simply gunslingers. They’re not. Their childhood backgrounds are slightly different, but their adult lives are very similar to each other.

Both Randee and Carrie Sue were chased from their lives by rich, licentious males who want to possess them, only to find more trouble upon running. Both want revenge against their tormentors, but neither directly gets their revenge.

It is not realistic to expect any artistically inclined person not to ever repeat themselves. Doing it in the very next work you do, however, is not a good look.

I also wasn’t in love with Carrie Sue’s claim that she and Darby were “forced” to become criminals. This is completely a lie. Yes, a lot of bad things happened to the Stover siblings, but they were NOT “forced” into criminal behavior. They CHOSE to become lawbreakers. Claiming noble reasons does not absolve someone from criminal responsibility.

Sex

Multiple love scenes between Carrie Sue and T.J. Like all of Mrs. Taylor’s books, the love scenes are more about the feelings engendered during the act rather than the esoterics of the act.

Violence

Some “on-screen” shootings, but most of the violence takes place “off-screen”. “Kiss of the Night Wind” is not a violent book.

Bottom Line

Kiss of the Night Wind is a good book but has too many issues to be great.

3.72 stars

Midnight Captive pino

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri

book review historical romance
Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Midnight Captive, a standalone Zebra historical romance from March 1989 by Penelope Neri.

The Plot

Prologue

Midnight Captive begins ominously.

A man finds a cache of gold and wishes everything he touches would turn into it. Hearing him, the Devil appears and makes the man a bargain. If the unnamed man sells his soul to the Devil, the Devil will grant his wish.

The man agrees. He later realizes, however, that such a bargain has unintended consequences.

This is the theme running through the book.

Part One

We meet Krissoula Ballardo, the heroine of Midnight Captive, and her business partner, Hector Corrales, in Spain.

Their business: rolling rich men and stealing from them.

When they see Esteban de San Martin, the hero, they try to rob him. This plan fails. Rather than have Krissoula arrested, Esteban blackmails her. He needs her to help him get revenge against his uncle, Felipe Aguilar, in Esteban’s home country Argentina.

Felipe is the brother of Esteban’s late father, Alejandro. There is significant bad blood between uncle and nephew.

We also learn about Krissoula’s past, which involves a happy childhood and much-less-happy young adulthood.

As part of Esteban’s plan, Krissoula must lure Felipe into proposing marriage to her.

However, he discovers that she and Esteban are lovers, leading to major trouble for both Krissoula and Esteban.

Esteban is severely beaten by Felipe’s henchmen. Meanwhile, Krissoula and her duena Sofia de Alicante y Moreno must flee. They end up being kidnapped by revolutionaries who want to overthrow the Argentine government.

Part Two

They escape their captivity. Krissoula and Sofia make their way to the Argentine barrios, where Krissoula has to fight off the predatory intentions of Antonio Malvado, the “godfather” of the barrio they’re staying in.

Those efforts end up for naught, however, as Sofia becomes seriously ill, and Krissoula has no choice but to go to Malvado for help. She also plans to kill Malvado for his contribution to the death of a friend of hers.

Esteban–now recovered from his beating–discovers that Krissoula is with Malvado. After a violent battle and a chase, he rescues Krissoula from Malvado’s evil clutches and kills him.

Krissoula and Esteban marry, have one child, officially adopt two others, and unofficially many others. They open an orphanage for the homeless, parentless children of the barrio.

Krissoula and Esteban have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The Heroine

A reader might read the title Midnight Captive and think the book is a “Stockholm Syndrome” romance. It’s not, thankfully.

What it is really is a story about a young woman–Krissoula is 19–who has endured major hardships and trauma in her young life, finding happiness through her own inner strength and courage.

At first, I didn’t like Krissoula–she starts the book as a thief–but as I read more, I grew to like, and later love, Krissoula. Readers will watch her grow up before their eyes.

She has a lot of similarities with another Penelope Neri heroine, Freya Jorgenson from Sea Jewel. The two stories are very different in terms of setting and culture. Yet both are about women experiencing hellish trauma at young ages and finding happiness by tapping into strength they didn’t know they had in order to survive.

The Couple

Both Krissoula and Esteban have fully realized characters. Although neither is flawless, they are very human.

They also have hot chemistry that comes from pairing a Gypsy/Spanish/Greek heroine with a Latinx hero. Esteban is my favorite Neri hero–admittedly, not a high bar to climb, as most of her “heroes” are rapist bastards, but he clears the bar easily.

I also liked the fact that both Krissoula and Esteban were willing to give a “hand-up” to the kids that needed a champion.

Ms. Neri also ties her parable from the beginning of the book into her main story. Esteban becomes wealthy but realizes that it’s no good if he doesn’t have Krissoula, whom he loves very much.

For Krissoula, she almost married Felipe–who is later killed “off-screen.” She comes to realize that though she may gain wealth by marrying, Krissoula would not be loved.

For only Esteban could provide her with the true love she has been seeking all of her life.

Ms. Neri is also a very good “scenic” writer. By that, I mean that she is very descriptive in her writing of scenes and takes me, as a reader, into her scenes.

Downside

Like the majority of Ms. Neri’s books, Midnight Captive is overlong. This is the 10th book I’ve read by Ms. Neri, and only one has come in at less than 500 pages. Midnight Captive checks in at 512 pages.

There were way too many exclamation points at the end of paragraphs and sentences.

I also felt the storyline about the overthrow of the Argentine government to be tacked on as a way to extend the page count. It was not really important or relevant to the book as a whole.

Sex

Ms. Neri knows how to write a sexy love scene–she did so in Sea Jewel–but here, the love scenes are fairly mild. They’re not Ms. Neri’s best love scenes.

Violence

Assault, battery, destruction of guns, and killings take place in Midnight Captive. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Midnight Captive

Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri is not a flawless book, but it has more than enough good qualities-including an amazing heroine–to earn a 4.89, rounded–up 5 stars from me.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

MONEY WAS SUPERIOR TO MARRIAGE

After a poor, ragged girlhood with he gypsy kinfolk, Krissoula Ballardo knew that all she wanted from life was her share of riches. But there was only one way for the penniless temptress to earn a cent: to fake interest in a man, drug him, and pocket everything he had! Then the sable-haired seductress met dashing Esteban de San Martin, and a hot unquenchable passion seared her soul. The fortune-hunting beauty knew she should flee the handsome devil — but a force more powerful made her run straight into his embrace!

RANCHING WAS BETTER THAN ROMANCE

All his life, dark, towering Esteban had been denied his father’s name; now he swore nothing would keep him from his rightful inheritance. In order to regain his vast Argentine acreage, the crafty vacquero blackmailed Krissoula, the unscrupulous wench who’d once tried to fool him. But the more he involved her in his plot, the more Esteban couldn’t deny her effect on him. Her luscious lips begged for his sensual kisses, her ripe curves invited his arousing caresses, and soon he was ready to sacrifice his carefully planned scheme for one searing moment in the welcoming arms of his exotic midnight captive.

midnight captive by PENELOPE NERI
the treacherous heart gignilliat

Historical Romance Review: The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie

historical romance review
The Treacherous Heart Rating: one-star
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Elaine Gignilliat
Published by: Fawcett
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 286
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie is a tale of a Gaelic, black-haired, fiery-spirited lass forced by circumstances to become a thief to provide for her family, only to be thwarted by an arrogant, scar-faced, golden-haired Duke…

Don’t Tell Me You’ve Heard This One Before!

Hmm. Where have I heard this plot before? Oh yes, Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness!

Sadly, that’s where the similarities end. If you remove all the intelligent writing, the interesting side characters, and the sexual chemistry between the leads from McBain’s book, we have this dull, meandering read.

Except for Jennifer Blake, I’ve come to find that Fawcett-published romances were rarely ever excellent, and this dud is another to put in the slush pile.

The Plot

The Treacherous Heart begins one day in Lancashire, England. Some drunken soldiers looking for excitement come upon the house of the Avory family. They ransack the home, kill the dog, the Irish-born widow Lady Delilah, and her young son before raping the teenage daughter.

The eldest sister and heroine, Raven, was not in residence while this occurred. She arrived only in time to witness the aftermath of her home’s destruction. So Raven flees with her sister Crystal to London to find comfort with relatives.

While her relations are suitably affluent, Raven and Christie find their financial circumstances are tenuous at best. A greedy land manager’s mishandling of their estate has left them destitute.

Raven enters Society, going to balls while escorted by her adoring cousin Wesley, who is gaga over her. At a masquerade, she meets the Duke of Dorchester, Eric Draquewall, our hero, who is predictably cold and arrogant. The duke glares at Raven and then insults her, but to his shock, her response is to laugh in his face, causing the duke to vow that he’ll teach the haughty chit a lesson!

Responsible for her convalescing younger sister and reliant upon the charity of relatives, Raven decides she’s too good to marry a wealthy chinless wonder. Within mere pages (by page 35), she decides to be a thief. She steals jewels and precious items from the gentry who welcomed her into their homes.

Soon, tales of the audacious jewel thief make the rounds. The burglar is given the moniker “The Black Cat.” (Get it? The heroine is named Raven and has black hair and green eyes, just like a black cat! Just like a cat burglar. And nobody even knew. Does that blow your mind, or what?)

The Romance

Jealous of Raven’s close relationship with her male cousin, the handsome Duke of Dorchester hires an investigator to find out if they’re secret lovers.

By page 60, he finds information that proves Raven is behind the jewel-napping antics. Dorchester could reveal her secret.

However, as Eric is attracted to Raven–what do you think that glaring and insulting was all about? That’s how these old-school romance heroes showed how much they liked a girl–he decides to blackmail her into being his mistress.

Or his wife.

Or mistress. Eric’s not really sure. All he knows is whatever Raven’s got under her velvety skirts, he wants in on that.

Raven finds that she responds to Eric’s caresses, despite her initial distaste towards any physical touch.

Raven was so disturbed by the brutality perpetrated upon her sister that she vowed no man would ever touch her.

Ironically, Crystal, the one who was violated, had an easy time finding healing through romantic and physical love. Okay, people react differently to trauma. Perhaps in the hands of a nuanced author, Raven’s survivor’s-guilt aversion to sex would have been a compelling part of her character. Alas, it isn’t. It’s just a plot contrivance to keep the hero and heroine from getting together. Circumstances occur mechanically here, without any flavor.

It Keeps Going and Going and Going…

And so Eric and Raven engage in a cat-and-mouse-will-they-or-won’t-they game for a few more pages.

Eric befriends Raven’s sister, showing he’s a nice guy. Eric’s mother thinks Raven would make the perfect wife for Eric. Raven resists the thought of marriage to this wealthy, handsome, friendly, attractive Duke because… Reasons?

When cousin Wesley finds out that Eric has been less than honorable with Raven, he challenges the Duke to a duel. Wesley is wounded in the swordfight, Eric gets scarred, and later Raven’s sister gets married. Then Eric sweeps Raven off to his estate, declaring his love for her before they finally get it on.

But Raven can’t be with Eric, because remember reasons!

So she flees to America to mooch off other family members, and The Treacherous Heart is only halfway through, and… OMG, make it stop!

Eric follows Raven to America, blah, blah, blah, a possible other woman makes an appearance, blah, blah, blah, Eric and Raven reunite, blah, blah, blah, villain seeks revenge, blah, blah, blah, happy ending.

Final Analysis of The Treacherous Heart

Events happened in Angela Alexie’s The Treacherous Heart. Characters engaged in dialogue, and time passed on, yet it was so dull.

All the pieces were in place, but the story was lifeless, like a dead frog connected to a car battery by jumper cables. Turn the ignition all you want; there’s just no spark here, no animation.

When boring writing is combined with a drawn-out, pale imitation of a superior work, it makes for a 1 star read. In this case, as I do appreciate the Elaine Gignilliat cover, I’ll give this sucker approximately one-and-a-half stars.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.4

1.74 Stars


Synopsis

The lady was a thief, the gentleman was a rogue. Their stormy romance defied propriety with a daring covenant of love.
Dire circumstances had left the beautiful young Lady Raven Avory bereft of family and funds. A desperate situation demanded a desperate remedy, and so she began stealing small jewels from the wealthy who had welcomed her as a guest.

She had not counted on being caught at her game, especially not by the handsome Duke of Dorchester. Suddenly she found herself forced into his debt, into his arms, into a star-crossed affair that would sweep her into a whirlwind of tangled hearts and the most brazen ecstasies of love.

The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie