Secret Fire was, I think, the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read which cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.
The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stores I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.
Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey”
Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her supposed romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.
Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him, as the Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child. Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rurik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”
I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar. I detested him so much I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter”
Charlotte Lamb’s Seduction features a ridiculously sheltered and innocent heroine and a hero so crazy and obsessed, they can only be found in old-school Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers, “mated-pair” paranormal romances, or perhaps self-published New-Adult books.
Clea is an orphaned English girl living in Greece with her Greek stepfather and stepsister. Her step-sister is a caricature of a slut, pursuing the hero with inexplicably misplaced confidence. Worse, Clea has a creepy step-dad with unhealthy designs on her, as he wants Clea to remain untouched by any man (except himself).
Ben is an Englishman visiting Greece, and he becomes obsessed with Clea from the first instance. He will do anything to get her.
He has a female accomplice named Natalie who befriends Clea and helps Ben abduct her. I wondered what this guy had on Natalie to make her do such a thing, but we never found out. Although just like Kramer from the show, Seinfeld has the power of the “Kavorka,” the “lure of the animal,” which attracts lust and devotion, Ben wields a strange control over women.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb”
Other than E. M. Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik, the Dell-published Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway would qualify as my most-liked sheik romance.
Harems and desert sheiks romances aren’t usually my cup of tea, as I prefer historical heroes to be swordsmen, cowboys, or knights. Nevertheless, a man like Karim who is passionately devoted to his heroine makes for a great hero, and a romance with such a male protagonist will certainly catch my interest.
This is another book where the half-European, half-Arab sheik carries off his object of desire into the sandy dunes and makes her his.
The story starts with a bang where we read about Karim’s mother and her desert abduction at the hands of a ruthless sheik. She plots and manipulates to have her son be taken to Europe where he will be educated and ”civilized.”
Mary Gillgannon’s Storm Maiden was a novel I was excited to pick up. The blurb told of an intriguing Viking historical romance with plenty of conflicts. Fiona, an Irish lord’s daughter, is dreading marriage to a man she hates. In her father’s dungeon is Dag Thorsson, an injured Viking captive. Fiona sneaks in to see him, cares for his wounds, and tries to seduce him so she’ll be ruined for marriage. But Dag is too wounded and delirious and can’t or won’t do the job.
Soon after, Vikings led by Dag’s brother, the chieftain of his people, come to Dag’s rescue. Despite his hindering injury to his sword arm, Dag takes Fiona as his captive.
This seemed to be a primal captor-captive relationship. Too often in Viking historical romance books, the hero speaks the heroine’s language because her people captured him as a youth! Here, they cannot understand one another but can communicate in other ways…
Beware of the Stranger by Janet Dailey was a real meh book. The best part of it was the 1970’s kitsch; the hero is introduced wearing a forest green blazer and plaid pants. The heroine’s wardrobe is full of plaid blouses and light-blue bell bottoms. Plenty of smoking, tossing those cigarettes down, and then engaging passionate make-out sessions.
As for the plot…
Well our plaid wearing hero shows up at the heroine’s newspaper job, claiming to work for her wealthy father who needs to see her immediately. He takes Samantha hundreds of miles away to a secluded island in the St. Lawrence River, never lets her off the island, and never lets her use the phone.
Samantha is a wily journalist with sharply-honed instincts, so it only takes her 100 pages of this 190+ page book to realize that she’s been kidnapped!
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late ’70s at the height of the bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to rapacious and fun, but I found it rather ho-hum.
Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde, Irish beauty Tara enters into a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is actually not a novice, but a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows. Yet for some mysterious reason, some of her fellow nuns ensure that Tara studies the pagan Nordic runes. Obviously, the elder sisters knew their convent would be overtaken by a horde of ravenous Vikings and runic readings would come in handy for protection later on.
I hated A Pirate’s Love for many reasons, some based on logic, most others based on pettiness. If you’re looking for a great review that does a better job explaining why this book blows, search elsewhere. I’m just going to go on a diatribe based on my ever-waning recollections of this “romance”:
The multiple rapes that the hero commits upon the heroine didn’t really faze me, although they did get redundant. After all, it’s a bodice ripper, and that’s what comes with the territory. If a hero raping the heroine offends you, best not read this genre. It was everything else, in this, Johanna Lindsey’s second book, that I despised.
I hated Bettina and her knee-length hair that’s easily hidden under a hat! (Apologies to Johanna who actually had knee-length hair. She could easily pass for one of her heroines.)
I hated how she cried over her dresses and how ill-tempered she was and hearing about her flashing eyes that were blue one minute, then green another. Not blue-green eyes, mind you, that look different depending on the light or what colors they reflect. Her eyes just change color randomly with her emotions.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey”
So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, I finally got around to Stormfire by the late Christine Monson. Whew! They do not write them like this anymore. The ultimate in bodice-ripping, Stormfire, is a tale of two mentally unstable people and their violent, intense love. And it’s great!
The main attraction of Stormfire is its writing. If it were a poorly written book, no one would still be talking about it 20-plus years after it was published. The chapters each have titles such as “Silken Irons,” “Into Eden,” or “The Nadir.” When the heroine meets the hero, her first thoughts are of Milton’s poetry:
“His form had not yet lost
All his original brightness, nor appeared
Less than Archangel ruined…”
PARADISE LOST, JOHN MILTON
The prose is evocative and compelling, but not purple. We agonize over Catherine’s enslavement. We feel the angry passion between the lovers. We grieve Catherine’s loss and suffer from Sean’s torture. How much misery can two people take? Then there is that intense love/hate.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stormfire by Christine Monson”
The girl would be more than a job to him. He had known it the moment he’d looked at her face. Was that why her eyes were so wide and round? Because she knew it too? It was ordained and irrevocable. Sometime. Somewhere. Somehow. He would take her to his bed.
ESCAPE NOT MY LOVE
Rating: 5 out of 5.
My First Historical Romance
As I’ve mentioned before, Elaine Coffman’s Escape Not My Love was not my first venture into the world of romance, but it was my first historical romance novel. And for that, I am grateful.
Superficially, ENML drew me in from the outset. It had a stunning step-back cover, designed with a pattern of a woman’s purple and white-flowered gown, and it opened to reveal the colorful protagonists clinched in a passionate embrace. (Thank God for that step-back! I first read this as I sat in church, waiting for my turn to enter the confessional and talk to the priest. He didn’t know what kind of trashy book I was reading, and I wasn’t about to volunteer that tidbit.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman”