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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


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 and 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

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

For sure, they were not always the best written, blathering on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Often, the heroines could be so argumentative and stubborn that I wanted to shake them.

Even so, I loved her plots that featured close proximity, kidnapping, and forced marriages. They had heroes who were arrogant, charmingly domineering, and so sexy. These men could treat their heroines like crap one minute, then kill for them, 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 Ranulf and Reina interact 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.


The Wonderful Characters


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’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; he didn’t put it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

And 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 always posing alongside Fabio (I think it’s Lianna Loggins), 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 Angel, Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Johanna 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 appreciate the ride.

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

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


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.

to touch the sun york

Historical Romance Review: To Touch the Sun by Barbara Leigh

female disguised as male historical romance review
To Touch the Sun by Barbara Leigh
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Judy York
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #98
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: To Touch the Sun by Barbara Leigh


The Book

To Touch the Sun is an older Harlequin Historical by Barbara Leigh. This is a unique medieval tale. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plot enacted this way.

If you’re a stickler for conventional happy endings, this might take you out of your comfort zone. But I think it would be a shame to miss out on this exquisite love story.

The Plot

To Touch the Sun is a story about a woman reared as a boy alongside her brother in Medieval England. The two eventually become knights, but the sister, Druanna, surpasses her brother. Sir Drue is not just any knight. She/he is one of the most virtuous, valiant, and admired chevaliers in the kingdom.

Druanna takes on the persona of Drue to such a great extent that even her brother almost forgets her true identity.

Although she dominates in the masculine arts of war, Drue’s heart is that of a woman who loves men. Unfortunately for Druanna, she falls for her enemy, Connaught.

Connaught is married when they meet and has no idea she is a female. He is confused and tormented by his attraction to this brave knight. Lucky for him, when Druanna is injured in combat, Connaught tends to her wounds and finds her boobies—itty-bitty as they may be–but a woman’s breasts nonetheless.

Whew, so at least he’s only a lustingin-his-heart adulterer, not a homosexual!

heroine disguised as male to touch the sun
“So before we go at it, what exactly is the penis situation?”

There are a few twists and turns along the way. Connaught is a married man, after all, with children. Then there is a shocking accusation against Sir Drue, who is considered one of the most eligible and handsome knights.

I imagine Drue looked like a young Tilda Swinton or Annie Lennox, a lean, tall, and blond ambisexual beauty.

female disguised as male tilda swinton
Tilda Swinton as Orlando

And, of course, there are the significant problems Connaught and Druanna face when their relationship becomes known.

An Unusual HEA: Spoiler Alert ⚠

The book is unique in that the main characters have their Happily Ever After, but an unconventional one. Drue and Connaught live happily, fighting alongside one another as two knights. And no one else, except the heroine’s brother, knows she is really a woman!

Final Analysis of To Touch the Sun

Barbara Leigh wrote so wonderfully. To Touch the Sun was the only romance I read by this author, and I’ve been searching for something else by her ever since.

Leigh created a believable world in which I was totally immersed. Druanna and Connaught’s love story was wholly original, and I felt for them as they experienced heartaches. This might not be a Desert-Island-keeper; still, it is a romance I’m glad to keep on my bookshelves.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.3


Beloved Captive…

To be a knight, chivalrous in deed and courageous in battle, was all that Dru had ever wished for. Dubbed Sir Dru, she had sworn to serve her king and seek revenge against her enemy, Connaught. She had vowed to slay the treacherous knight, yet one look into the depths of his fire-blue eyes and she knew she could never kill him…

Though she had captured him fairly on the field of battle, it was Dru who was completely in his power, and she shuddered to think what the proud Connaught would do when he discovered that the ‘lad’ who had defeated him was nothing more than a woman.