Spoiler Alert & Warning: This Review and/or This Book May Offend You (Maybe) ⚠
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Pinnacle Books‘ Passion’s Wicked Torment is a balls-to-wall 20th-century bodice ripper set in the gangster era during American Prohibition. From New York to Chicago, from Alaska to Europe, this book hops around the globe and features lots of mutually lusty sex scenes, rapes, and gangbangs. It stars a heroine so stupid and dumb, she could only have been written by Mr. Melissa Hepburne himself, the author of the blockbuster bestseller (I’m not kidding, it sold over a million copies!) Passion’s Proud Captive.
Aren’t Do-Do Birds Extinct?
Our heroine, Kristin Fleming, is perhaps an IQ point or two higher than Passion’s Proud Captive’s brainless Jenny-fair, whose stupidity made that book a hilarious blast. Now, I am not insulting our resilient sisters and aunts and mothers and grandmothers of the past when I refer to Hepburne’s heroines as too-stupid-to-live. This so-called historical fictional romance plays fast and loose with history, waffles around on the romance, and is HEAVY on the fiction. I doubt many women in reality who were capable of dressing themselves or had the mental know-how to expel their body wastes in a bowl of some sort ever inserted themselves into the moronic situations these caricatures of female protagonists did.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne”
Janette Seymour’s Emmie’s Love is Purity’s Passion, redux. Just as in Purity’s Passion and Purity’s Ecstasy, the heroine is separated from her true love and must “find” her way back to him. “Find” being a euphemism for another four-letter word that starts with “f.”
Again, the same terms and motifs are used: a violent opening involving near-rape and an alluded castration; frequent mentions of “handy-dandy”; dampened sheer muslin gowns; blond studs performing for an audience; a one night stand with a doomed soldier; a blue-eyed, scar-faced hero that is rarely seen; and a heroine with no personality save for being a busty, lusty wench.
Emmie Dashwood–granddaughter to an aged Marquess who pats her rump in a most loving fashion–lives in a moldy, decaying manor with her large, moochy family. After grandpa’s death, she is sold in marriage to an older man living another continent away. On her trip across the ocean, she falls in love with Captain Nathan Grant, the very married ship’s captain.
Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epics, but alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s the least liked of her books I’ve read so far.
Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky; she hates convention, and why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?
Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers; a meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Her attitude is very draining. But worse are the random italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.
Lovely red-gold-haired, violet-eyed Lenore is the female protagonist of Valerie Sherwood’s This Towering Passion and the primary heroine of its sequel, Her Shining Splendor, which tells the tale of both Lenore and her daughter, Lorena, from the English Civil War to the Restoration eras.
Lenore’s beauty is of little use to her because while she can get a man, she has trouble keeping him.
First, as is standard in a Sherwood novel, the heroine gets together with her first lover, who’s typically a hunky block of wood. Here, Lenore becomes infatuated with the hottest guy in town, a big blond stud who’s a charismatic black hole. Although he’s a mite too friendly with other ladies, he and Lenore get handfasted.
But, alas, he leaves Lenore behind, looking for adventure by fighting against the English army. Lenore, who has no one else in the world, won’t be left all alone and seeks him out, only to find he’s killed in action.
The Coach to Hell was a bit of disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ Moment of Desire. While that book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind, this book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.
The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home. Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it. Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.
Like in all Bertrice Small novels, the history in Enchantress Mine is richly detailed, the villains are just whacked-out, and there’s a lot of WTF situations that make you shake your head, blink and wonder, “What just happened?” But, I don’t know… I guess I just don’t enjoy some of Bertrice Small’s books as much as I do other bodice rippers.
A Too-Perfect Heroine
Enchantress Mine is set in the Middle Ages, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The heroine, Mairin, is a foundling raised by adopted parents.
Oh, Mairin, how to describe her? The cover art is the best thing about her. I both hated and pitied the poor girl. So many horrific things happened to Mairin, but I didn’t care because she was SOOOO perfect, SOOOO beautiful, SOOOO resilient!
Torn between her desires for a Russian colonel and a dashing lieutenant in the Swedish army, Kirsten is swept by savage destiny into the raging lusts of a revolution… Against the tumultuous background of the Northern War of 1710 is woven the enthralling saga of a tempestuous woman forced to choose between her impassioned loyalty and the ecstasy of forbidden love.
1 1/2 stars
Rating: 1.5 out of 5.
I HATE being let down by books that seem to have promise, but end with a lifeless whimper. Bodice rippers set in Russia are my siren song! This should have rocked!
Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft is the first non-Viking historical romance set in Scandinavia that I’ve read.
Russian soldiers have taken over a town in Sweden and Kirsten hides in a hot sauna for protection. Stupid Kirsten lets a little kitty in there with her and he dies, the poor thing! Well, maybe not so poor. Kitty’s pain is over, but mine was still to come as I had this turkey of a book to finish.
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.
Passion’s Proud Captive by Melissa Hepburne is not a book for modern readers, but it’s tailor-made to suit my tastes.
As far as “romance novels” go, I am stuck in a time warp. This 50-year old genre has more variety now than ever… I find modern romances lacking. I’ll read a keeper on a rare occasion, but they just don’t do it for me for the most part. I know they’re well-written, insightful, witty, with mature sexuality. It’s simply that most of them bore me. I’m a troglodyte, ok! I like cheese! Spare me your Ivy-league educated authors with professional doctorates who create such works of literature like Seven Scandalous Secrets to Seduce a Man-Slut–oops–Scoundrel. Give me those 21-year-old-housewives, those retired grandmothers, those crazy cat ladies! Now they knew how to write the crap I like… Crap like Passion’s Proud Captive.
If ever you’ve wondered if a book was so trashy, so poorly written yet so awfully enjoyable that it could be considered to romance novels what Manos the Hands of Fate or The Room is to movies, look no further than Passion’s Proud Captive or Miss Jennifer van der Lin’s Ribald Tales of Rapetastic Adventures in White Slavery featuring ugly, greasy men and a few good-looking ones, too.... Read more “Historical Romance: Passion’s Proud Captive by Melissa Hepburne”
From the opening pages of Andrea Layton’s So Wild a Rapture, we are introduced to the 16-year-old heroine, the noble Juliette de Condillac, and her “won twu wuv,” Francois du Quesnay, a slightly older boy from a neighboring and also noble family. They quickly consummate their love and, like high schoolers, vow to be “togetha 4 eva” after Francois finishes his university education. But life has other plans for Juliette and Francois, first in the name of Roger du Deffand, and then in the name of the French Revolution.
Against her will, Juliette is betrothed to the foppish and much older Roger. Francois hightails it back to school, but not before giving her his ring, which he tells Juliette will protect her whenever needed. Juliette dithers about her future: maybe she will marry Roger, maybe she won’t. In the meantime, she is to be educated at a convent and spend time with nobility, learning what she needs to be a proper bride for Roger. What does she need to learn? Oh, the usual: being pious, educated in the wifely arts, properly social, and perhaps take part in a bit of girl-on-girl love, because her husband-to-be loves to watch a good show (or even take part).... Read more “Historical Romance Review: So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton”
We gave each other, with our bodies, the commitment that neither of us dared put into words. We mated. There is no other word for it. We were equal—man and woman; neither asking what we could not give…
THE WILDEST HEART
3 1/2 Stars
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
In Rosemary Rogers‘ The Wildest Heart, Lady Rowena Dangerfield is a beautiful woman who men value for her beauty, wealth, or both. She was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. Rowena was indifferent to men; despite their passion for her, she could not love anyone except outlaw Lucas Cord. For Lucas, Rowena was willing to renounce her inheritance or even die with him in the perilous mountains. Despite his conflicted past, Lucas was the only man to love Rowena for herself alone.
The Negative Aspects
Although I read romance mainly for the love story, I enjoy experiencing the heroine’s travails. I can enjoy a great romance novel about a heroine’s struggles through life, and the hero can be relegated to the background while the heroine grows and matures. In a way, The Wildest Heart is one of those books.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers”
The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between we witness the epic tale of Purity, a woman so beautiful many men desire her, they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her… In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.
Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love and later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.
Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward. Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and the finally marries her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour”
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”
But though Skye had learned the womanly arts she had not become a biddable female. Not Skye O’Malley!
Spoiler Alert ⚠
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Skye O’Malley: The Most Perfect Heroine Ever?
Oh, never, ever was there a lass as lovely as Bertrice Small‘s Skye O’Malley. With raven locks, eyes as blue-green as the Kerry sea, tiny waist, impossibly long legs for such a wee girl, perfectly pert boobies, and a fantastically elastic vagina that bounces back to its teen glory no matter how many kids she births (she must’ve done her Kegels), Skye is the most beautiful, most desirable, most enchanting, the “bestest ever!”
Any man who looks upon her nubile beauty will be inflicted with priapism, and the sole cure is a ticket of the old in and out of Skye’s mossy cavern of passion. Her weeping honey-oven. Her juicy love-grotto, as it were. Yup, only the cringiest, the purplest of euphemisms are here as the vintage Queen of Erotic romance, Bertrice Small, takes us across the seas and nations to experience the highs and lows, but mostly orgasmic highs, of Skye’s life.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small”