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Rangoon pino

Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

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


Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

West Meets East

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge Turns to Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Faltering End

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Rangoon

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

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

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

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

On to the next book.

3.74 Stars

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

RANGOON by CHRISTINE MONSON
Savage Ecstasy Popp

Historical Romance Review: Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

native american romance
Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage/ Gray Eagle #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor. This is the first book in her Ecstasy/Gray Eagle series, which is known by two different names.

There’s a lot to unpack here in this Zebra Native American historical romance.

The Story

Part One of Savage Ecstasy

The year is 1776, and English expatriate Alisha Williams is 20 years old. Our heroine (who’s also the heroine of the first four books in the series), has journeyed west to find happiness with her only surviving relative, her uncle Thad.

One day, the “men” in her settlement bring a captured Oglala Lakota Indian brave into their camp. that brave is Gray Eagle, the “hero” of the book. Their treatment of him sets the stage for what follows. The whites emotionally and physically abuse Gray Eagle in the camp.

Only Alisha shows Gray Eagle kindness; his response to this is to bite her hand. (This is only the beginning of what he has in store for her over the course of the series.) Despite this, Gray Eagle and Alisha develop romantic feelings for each other.

Part Two of Savage Ecstasy

Gray Eagle, with the help of his best friend, White Arrow, escapes. Shortly thereafter, Gray Eagle, White Arrow, and a hundred of their fellow Oglala braves sack the fortress, killing most people in the camp. The only survivors include three men, and women Gray Eagle keeps alive because he has special plans for them and Alisha.

As the days go on, Alisha and Gray Eagle’s relationship takes the form it will take for the majority of the book and series. Sometimes, Gray Eagle treats Alisha with great emotional, mental, physical, and sexual cruelty. Other times, he’s kind and loving to her. Both people are conflicted with their emotions toward the other.

Sometime later, while the braves are away on a hunt, Alisha is “rescued” by the Army and taken to Fort Pierre. There Alisha meets two men who will affect both her and Gray Eagle’s lives. They are: Powchutu, a half-white, half-Lakota scout for the Army who becomes Alisha’s only friend at the fort. And there is Lieutenant Jeffrey Gordon.

Later, Gray Eagle and a few thousand of his closest friends show up at the fort. They demand Alisha be returned to him, or he and his braves will kill everyone inside. After a short deliberation, the Army decides to hand Alisha back over to Gray Eagle. This is also a tone-setting action for Alisha and Gray Eagle’s relationship and lives.

Upside

At her best, Ms. Taylor is right up there with Rosanne Bittner for writing evocative, lyrical novels. In many ways, Ms. Taylor’s writing in Savage Destiny fits that category. I felt as though I were with Alisha and Gray Eagle, watching their lives. The descriptions of Lakota culture show that this is a well-researched book.

Downside

The biggest downside of this book–and the books in the series he is in–is Gray Eagle. As mentioned above, Gray Eagle is extremely cruel to Alisha throughout the book. Ms. Taylor tries to defend/excuse/justify this behavior in the following ways (my paraphrasing):

  • Alisha is white.
  • She is Gray Eagle’s slave. She should be submissive to him.
  • Because she is not submissive all the time, he has to treat her poorly. In other words, she made him do it.
  • Lakota culture, tradition, and religion.
  • He has to treat her poorly in order not to lose face with his people.

At the end of the book, Alisha blames herself for his abuse of her. None of these excuses hold water in my view. All of the above turn the “romance” between Alisha and Gray Eagle into a Stockholm Syndrome relationship.

The secondary characters–except for Gray Eagle’s best friend, White Arrow, who is also in love/lust with Alisha (as just about every male in the book ios)–are one-dimensional. The white characters hate Indians. The Indian characters hate whites.

As strong as Alisha is on many levels, she is extremely weak when it comes to her relationship with Gray Eagle, accepting and attempting to justify his abhorrent behavior. Although in the interest of fairness, Alisha has no money and no family to help her after her uncle, Thad, was killed in the raid on the fortress earlier.

Sex

Ms. Taylor’s love scenes are very flowery, with a lot of euphemistic expressions for sex rather than a nuts-and-bolts description of the act.

Violence

Plenty of emotional and physical violence. Assault and battery, attempted rape, actual rape, and torture are all featured here.

Bottom Line on Savage Ecstasy

I deleted an earlier review in order to reread the book to give this Native American romance a more nuanced review. On a lot of levels, Janelle Taylor‘s Savage Ecstasy is a very good book.

However, the deliberate, misogynistic violence–and the lame attempts to excuse it–bring the book down quite a bit in my eyes.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.2

Synopsis

It was like lightning, the first time they looked into each other’s eyes: Gray Eagle, the captured Indian brave, and Alisha, the beautiful young settler. As the proud Oglala warrior was being tortured by his white captors, only Alsiha seemed to notice he was a human being – handsome and strong, and one who took her breath away.

But if Alisha could have read Gray Eagle’s thoughts she would have been even more disturbed…Because from the moment he saw her, the Indian knew he had to possess the fair-skinned one – and his life would not be complete until he had made her his slave!

Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor