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liar's moon heather graham

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

category romance
Liar's Moon by Heather Graham
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #159
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 286
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham


The Book

Liar’s Moon, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme by Heather Graham is an overwrought foray into romantic suspense.

There’s intrigue, murder, and a long-ago love affair between a teenage girl and a much older, close family friend.

Events lead to a dramatic and happy conclusion in this so-so-category romance.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Tracy Kuger has come to New York for her father’s funeral. Who was her father? He was Jesse Kuger, Liar’s Moon’s version of The Beatle’s John Lennon. Only in Liar’s Moon, these Beatles consisted of Jesse, Leif, Tiger, and Sam, and they called themselves The Limelights.

(Incidentally, this was also the name of a string of nightclubs run by entrepreneur and Ecstasy kingpin Peter Gatien. The most (in)famous of the clubs was located in an old, converted church in Manhattan. Lots of memories for me from the mid-1990s! Today it’s a gym. Do techno dance clubs even exist anymore? I’m old, so I don’t know about these things.)

Tracy’s father was inexplicably killed, and his murderer was shot dead by police in a subsequently prompt fashion.

Tracy’s instincts tell her this was not the work of a mere maniacal fan.

Leif Johnson was Jesse’s best friend. Years before the book starts, a “sexually precocious” yet virginal Tracy threw herself at Leif, and he being the mature Rock Star that he was, just couldn’t say no to his BFF’s daughter.

Tragedy and circumstances forced Tracy into exile to Switzerland for seven years. The Tracy who returns from Europe to bury her father is now a thriving and (supposedly) independent businesswoman.

The Plot

The plot may be uncomfortable for readers who dislike significant age differences. Tracy was 17 years old when she “seduced” Leif, who was in his late 30s. But she came on to him, not the other way around! You can’t blame the guy, right?

Complicating matters is that Tracy became pregnant from the fling. As a result, her parents conspired to make Tracy believe her baby died at birth.

Then they shipped the baby off to Leif, who raised his son with his wife Celia, whom he deeply loved. The reader knows from the opening pages about Leif’s happy marriage, even as his dreams are haunted by images of an alluring Tracy in the moonlight.

Leif (with a name like Leif, you’d think he’d be a blond, but no, he’s a dark and hirsute stud) is concerned for Jesse’s children’s safety. He, too, suspects the killing was not an isolated incident. Jesse’s 20-year-old son Jamie is an up-and-coming musician whom Leif has taken under his wing.

And of course, there is Tracy (an independent woman, remember?), who does not need Leif’s role as her–ahem–guardian. But guard her he will, whether she likes it or not.

Leif and Tracy are still hot for one another, and passion rears its purple head. All the while, danger lurks as the pair search for clues to the mystery.

Someone had reason to murder Jesse, who wasn’t the saintly icon everyone painted him as being. Assembled together is a cast of assorted characters, with members of the old band, friends, and family forming a list of potential killers.

In the end, major revelations come to light, the bad guy’s identity is revealed, and he/she receives their punishment.

The lovers get their happy-ever-after ending.

However, the conclusion left me feeling like I’d been forced to swallow a pint of sour, curdled milk.

My Opinion

Liar’s Moon has “sort of” an icky plot with a big age gap between the main characters. But that wasn’t the icky part of it.

What skeeved me out was Leif’s role as the best friend of Tracy’s father. He was practically an uncle to Jesse’s kids.

Even worse is how Leif rides roughshod over Tracy. He confronts her with the truth about their “dead” baby in a sadistically cruel manner. Leif dismisses Tracy’s pain over the perceived loss, then forcefully demands Tracy be his wife.

Finally, Leif introduces Tracy to her own child as the boy’s new stepmother. A cheerful epilogue doesn’t make up for Leif’s atrocious behavior.

Final Analysis of The Book

Liar’s Moon was an angsty read, for sure. Regardless, the unheroic hero’s faults were too numerous to overlook. I mean, how could Graham name the main male character Leif and not make him blond? Unforgivable.

Still, Heather Graham is a solid author, even when writing for a restrictive category line. I can’t blame her for trying.

Liar’s Moon is an alright story that could have been better if the hero hadn’t been such a pompous and domineering jerk.

2.95 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.1


She’d been a wild teenager willing to risk anything for revenge. But when she seduced Leif Johnston, she hadn’t counted on falling in love…hadn’t believed her family would intervene and sweep her off to Switzerland.

Seven years later, Tracy Kuger was a successful, independent woman. But her determination to find her father’s killer would carry her right back into New York’s deceiving limelight…into the treacherous bosom of her powerful family…into Leif’s lean, hungry arms. Passion and peril bound them together even as doubts and dangerous secrets tore them apart.

Tormented by the past, could Tracy face the truth and embrace the future—a love born under a liar’s moon?

sweet fire pino

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman

historical romance review
Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman


The Book

Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.

The Plot

Part One

Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies. They now residein San Francisco, California.

The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her more sophisticated and only slightly older young stepmother.

Of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.

Lydia is a woman of social conscience. She tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, murdering women on the streets.

The mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was. But I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.

Lydia lets Nathan and Brigham know she’s onto their game and is having none of it! She knows their flattery and claims of affection are false. She wants nothing to do with either of those fortune-seekers.

For Nathan, it’s not so false at all.

Part Two

Nathan is a devil, however. When circumstances lead to Lydia getting injured, it results in amnesia.

Nathan takes advantage of the situation, whisks Lydia far away, and marries her.

With Lydia’s wall of reserve removed, they embark on a passionate honeymoon.

One steamy love scene follows another as Nathan tries to cement a solid foundation if–or more likely, when–Lydia’s memory returns.

It does return, and so does the danger that lurked around her. Who can Lydia trust? Who can she love?

Final Analysis of Sweet Fire

There are multiple threads woven throughout Sweet Fire. Jo Goodman skillfully created a vast tapestry of characters that I cared about. Events led to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.

I’ve read Jo Goodman’s Sweet Fire twice so far. While the second time around wasn’t as exhilarating as the first, I still had a fun time. The 13-year-old me loved this book, while her 35-year-old counterpart enjoyed it very much.

Instead of rating this 5 stars as I would have when I first read it, I’m settling on a 4.5 rating for Sweet Fire.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.4


Told all her life that she was plain, Lydia Chadwick knew no man would come courting because of her looks. So it was with some suspicion that the shy, sweet San Francisco heiress woke one morning with a tall, dark, dangerously handsome husband she couldn’t recall marrying. Lydia had lost her memory, and was desperate to discover if there was truly a love to remember. For as she looked at Nathan Hunter’s lean, muscular frame, she longed to abandon herself to the sensual stranger, and believe—if only for a little while—that the possessive passion in his smoky gray eyes was really for her.

Business and pleasure weren’t supposed to mix, but in this case Nathan Hunter was willing to make an exception. After all, it was in his best interests to keep his new bride’s mind off the secrets of her past. Making sure she didn’t remember her hatred for him turned out to be the easy part, as he initiated the innocent Lydia to womanhood. Not so easy was keeping sight of his own goals as Lydia’s sweet surrender wove a seductive spell around Nathan’s heart, arousing emotions he had thought forever buried…

carnival by jenna ryan

Category Romance Review: Carnival by Jenna Ryan

category romance


The Book

The setting of Carnival, a Harlequin Intrigue by Jenna Ryan, is the dark, dreary English moors. It’s a well-plotted romantic suspense book that will keep you on your toes.

The Plot

There’s been a violent murder committed. American attorney Lexie Hudson is hired to represent the accused killer, Diana. She is young and inexperienced at her job but idealistic and hardworking.

Then there’s Rick Matheson, a handsome Australian carnie worker. He is anxious to help Lexie seek out clues and also keep her out of harm’s way.

But Rick is no ordinary laborer. He’s a Scotland Yard detective employed undercover to uncover the real murderer. Rick is also there to find the missing treasure that’s the motive for the homicide.

Lexie and Rick work together, following a labyrinthine trail of clues as they try to solve this mysterious puzzle. In the meantime, they fall in love. The two share quite a sexy relationship. Rick was a nice, protective hero, and I really liked him.

The Ending

Carnival was one of those mysteries with a HUGE twist at the end because the person who committed the crime was the least likely person to execute it. No, it wasn’t the hero or heroine. Let’s just say:


If you’ve seen…

…the Edward Norton & Richard Gere film Primal Fear

…then you’ll be able to guess who the killer is.


Final Analysis of Carnival

Carnival by Jenna Ryan was a good thriller. It’s not super memorable. Still, it’s a gripping read that will keep you turning the pages to see who-dun-it.

3 Stars


Nothing had prepared her for this

Thick fog seeping off the Devon moor. The brooding ruins of an alchemist’s castle. And the carnival itself, whose maze of tents and caravans hid the priceless Saxony jewels — and the identity of the carny who’d killed for them. Preparing her first criminal case, Lexie Hudson was glad of Australian roustabout Rick Matheson’s friendly face — frankly, the place spooked her.

But Lexie wasn’t too scared to pursue any and all leads, and that worried Rick, working undercover for Scotland Yard. His concern wasn’t entirely professional — he was greatly attracted to the young American lawyer, who wasn’t experienced enough to know that the gravest threat to her well-being was her burning desire to uncover the truth.

the jacaranda tree outside

Historical Romance Review: The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne

Step-back cover exterior & interior The Jacaranda Tree, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner Books, 1995, Elaine Duillo cover artist

From the back of the book:

A sense of foreboding had gripped Arabella Darracott when she left England to join her guardian in Australia. Years before, a gypsy fortune-teller had told her of a purple blossomed tree, a far-off shore, and a devil of a man who awaited her there. Now, as she neared her destination, shipwreck and fate threw her into the arms of a rescuer, “Demon” Lucien Sinclair, the notorious ex-convict who had become rich in the gold fields of New South Wales. Lucien – wild and wickedly handsome – was the fallen archangel of her dreams. But the crime in his past was linked to a dangerous secret. And the passion awakened under the Jacaranda tree could cost Arabella her future, even her life…or give her Lucien forever to cherish, forever to love.

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Jacaranda Tree was the last historical romance Rebecca Brandewyne published with Warner Books. After that, she wrote a few contemporaries, some paranormals, and a few gothic mysteries for Harlequin, before disappearing from the writing field entirely.

The plot is centered around an Englishwoman, Arabella Darracott, who is seeking employment in Australia. There, she finds love with a mysterious former convict named Lucien after they are shipwrecked together. Not just a love story, The Jacaranda Tree also a murder mystery written in Brandewyne’s gothic style.

Since I wrote this comment in my reading notes for The Jacaranda Tree: “This is RB’S Frankenstein, with plot points and verbatim scenes gutted from her previous books and stitched together into this one,” I’d figure I’d make a Frankensteinian review from my notes.

1) When I started The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne, I figured I’d play a drinking game. Rebecca Brandewyne always repeated the same terms or clichés over and over in every book. This was is extremely repetitive. Grab your choice of poison and take a sip (or a guzzle) whenever you come upon of these words or phrases:

retroussé nose
-halcyon days
-mat/pelt of hair on his chest
-coppery taste of blood on lips
-Gypsy/ Gypsy curse
-sloe eyes
-sweeping moors
-twilight dim
-of her own volition
-aquiline nose
-smoking a cheroot

I was on page 88 when I finished my second glass of sherry. (I have to justify it somehow and this is better than just ‘cuz I’m bored!)

2) If Jennifer Wilde is the king of the run-on-sentence, then Brandewyne is the queen of the subordinate clause!

3) Lots of info-dumping history/ecology lessons here… I know the author graduated Magna Cum Laude and is a Mensa member, but is this really necessary?

4) Arabella and Lucien make love. Then Arabella sees Lucien’s “Murderer’s Brand”… And now Lucien is now Michael Myers while Arabella does her best Jamie Lee Curtis imitation.

5) It was painfully obvious who the villain was and there tons of clichés throughout (the serial killer who put coins on the eyes of his victims, for example). Even so, it wasn’t bad. The love scenes were beyond purple prose, they were ultra-violet, yet I liked that. If this had been the first Brandewyne I’d read, I would have enjoyed it more.

6) Well, the bad point about this was that this was the worst Rebecca Brandewyne book I’ve ever read. The good thing is that this was still an ok novel, although not near her best. The Jacaranda Tree was my least favorite of Rebecca Brandewyne’s historicals, mainly because it was almost a verbatim regurgitation of conversations, plot points, and love scenes from other books (mostly from Upon a Moon-Dark Moor and Desperado).