While Zebra still publishes historical romances, their heyday as paperback romance publishers is behind them. In the ’80s and ’90s, their dazzling romances would line shelves in drugstores and be piled into bargain bins in supermarkets. Now they’re something most only hardcore romance lovers recall fondly.
The covers would hypnotize with bright shades of red, pink, gold, and purple swirls. The embossed foil titles glittered with adjectives like “wild,” “seductive,” “scarlet,” ”violet,” & “amber,” or nouns like “temptation,” “Vixen,” “ecstasy,” “angel,” or “passion.” Often you’d get a state thrown in the title, like Colorado Temptation, Texas Star, Dakota Destiny,Wild Wyoming Love, or California Caress. The best covers would have a horse rearing in the background (or a bird, a ship, or a mansion) plus a pink or purple flower opening up in euphemistic symbolism.
Pirate’s Angel, Marsha Bauer, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art
Rating: 5 out of 5.
First of all, I love the original Pirate’s Angel Zebra Heartfire cover, but man-oh-man, have you taken a look at the e-book version? Authors, why are you doing this to your books? Lots of folks love to mock old-school covers and Fabio, but there are e-book covers that make clinches look like Rembrandts. Even a plain black cover with white Comic Sans font would be sexier than whatever the heck that new version is.
Besides loving the original Pino cover, I loved just about everything else in Marsha Bauer’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire pirate romance. Sure, the heroine is a two-faced hussy, as she has a dependable guy back home whom she plans on marrying while she enthusiastically partakes in lovemaking sessions with the hero. But I couldn’t blame Ivy. Drake was wildly attracted to her.
Plus, he was hot. (God, I’m so shallow.)
Our story begins with a lovemaking session some 20+ years prior to the start of the main plot, with the pirate Keils Cauldron making love to a beautiful woman he calls Sunny.
Sea Fires, a Zebra Lovegram written by Christine Dorsey, features bookish yet feisty Miranda Chadwick as the heroine, who’s embarking on an ocean voyage home to the colonies. Her only interests are her microscope (which had specially ground lenses designed by the Leuwenhoek himself) and examining the animalcules of various flora and fauna. (If I ever have to hear that irritating word “animalcule again,” I swear I will go screaming around like a raging madwoman.)
Our dashing hero is Captain Gentleman Jack Blackstone, who has to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the evil Spanish. (Sigh, I’ve seen that plot before, many TIMES over. Why can’t other folks be the bad guys in these pirate stories? Oh, well. Que sera sera.)
Miranda’s father has some shady dealings with Jack, as he is a smuggler himself. He’s under investigation and convinces Jack to kidnap Miranda for several weeks until the magistrate leaves town. Miranda is such a do-gooder that she won’t think twice about ratting out Jack to anyone and everyone, thus exposing his—and her father’s—pirate enterprise.
He is Morgan Scott, an English nobleman once held captive on the high seas by the brutal Spanish master and crew who murdered his family. Now he sails the seas as a British privateer, taking his revenge by attacking and plundering Spanish ships.
She is Luca Santiego, forced from the shelter of a convent and destined for a marriage arranged by her father. When her ship is attacked by pirates, she dons the garb of a nun and prays for mercy. Yet amid the flames of the sinking ship, the blue-eyed captain is seized by an unbidden passion for the beauty who kneels before him. Driven by a wicked desire to claim her as his spoils in an act of vengeance against the Spanish, he is torn by an overwhelming response to Luca’s sweet innocence, and aches with need for her. Yet he vows he will have her only when his tender kisses bring about her willing surrender to a magnificent, undeniable love.
The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independent creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
*** Spoiler alert ***
An Unusual Romance
How do I begin to review this amazing, conflicting journey through a woman’s incredible 19th-century life? I have to tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.
By all rights Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should have tossed into a blazing fire and gleefully cheered, “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”
Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having read a few of Deana James’s books, I knew it couldn’t be that horrible. The cover even had a quote from Johanna Lindsey, stating: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down,” which is 100% true.
Captive Angel surpassed my expectations with probably one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels’ Captive Series.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James”
Why, oh why did I not listen to the words of wisdom just DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper?
But no, like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur. First one thing happens, and then this happens, and then this other thing happens, but none of it has any zing or excitement about it. In Heather by Cordelia Byers, stuff occurs while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. Absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper, because these are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the senses, either by offending or delighting or titillating.
I was a little offended, I suppose; not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.
Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative, and even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either. Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David but knows that her love is hopeless.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers”
It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I started reading Cynthia Wright’s Silver Storm, then put it down; it was sweet, but sometimes too sweet and I have enough cavities. Then halfway through it changes in tone. Our previously gentleman hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great and I wanted more!
The first half involves a sensuous French privateer Andre Raveneau escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia at the end of the American Revolution. The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man but devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment. All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice, and Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a gentleman; I wondered where this was going.
Like many other late 1970’s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.
In the first book, Purity’s Passion, after beautiful Purity survived the French Revolution, she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she had numerous obstacles to overcome before getting her man (namely other men). The same is more or less the case with this sequel, as Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.
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”
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”
I first read this book eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was, for me, the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know? I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest book. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!
The day I saw the stocker opening up a new box, I grabbed the first book from the top, not caring that it has a slit in the cover. I was a bit disheartened, because for a Duillo–Fabio–Lindsey cover, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was ugly. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed. When I saw the cover for Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I was more disheartened about the artwork. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, that one was a step-back, with a new flowery font on the front.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey”