Tag Archives: rape in romance

Historical Romance Review: The Captain’s Vixen by Wanda Owen

The Captain's Vixen by Wanda Owen
The Captain's Vixen by Wanda Owen
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Pirate Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: The Captain’s Vixen by Wanda Owen

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sometimes one can tell when a book is the first an author has written. The stories don’t seem finished, characters arrive and are then written out without rhyme or reason. Such is the case with The Captain’s Vixen the debut by Wanda Owen. This was not a great first book.

The Plot

Part One: Our Hero and Heroine Meet and Fall in Love

France is on the brink of war in 1805. Andre Cartiers, a French resistance fighter, is concerned enough about what is happening in his homeland to send his two daughters, Olivia, 18, and Elise, 16, to England to live with their Aunt Colette.

Taking the girls to England is English sea captain Landon “Lance” Edwards. Lance is also a peer of the realm in England, but he and his father don’t get along, so Lance rarely uses his high-society connections.

Lance and Elise meet on the trip from France to England. They are attracted to each other, and soon after they make love and agree to marry.

Alas, the fact that Elise is stunningly beautiful and Lance is both handsome and a ladies’ man is both a blessing and a curse for the couple.

Almost every man who meets Elise falls in love or lust with her. Sadly, this results in her being raped three times and nearly raped on two other occasions! The first attempted rape occurs at the home of one of Colette’s friends, the Wentworths. Their son, Robert, tries to rape Elise before being beaten severely by Lance who comes upon the act and prevents it. Unfortunately, Lance can’t prevent Elise from being raped by her Uncle, Edwin Herrington.

Part Two: Kidnapped and Separated

The second rape occurs when Elise is kidnapped by the crew of a pirate, Joaquin Ruiz, aka “El Diablo.” One of Ruiz’s crewmen rapes Elise before Ruiz takes Elise under his protection as his unwilling mistress.

Elise was kidnapped as part of Ruiz’s plan to get revenge on Lance for his affair with Ruiz’s wife, Felicia. Ruiz had found Lance and Felicia in bed together. Lance stabbed Ruiz and escaped. Felicia was not so lucky, as Ruiz killed her that night and has been planning his revenge since.

Elise plays along as Ruiz’s mistress to stay alive and get back to Lance. Unfortunately for her, he tells Elise that Lance is dead; obviously not true as he is this book’s hero.

Lance is desperately searching for the two, however, he just misses catching up with them.

Finally, Elise gets the chance to escape Ruiz. Taking her lady’s maid, Lita–whom she adopted into her employ in Havana, Cuba–with her, Elise tries to flee from Havana when the women are set upon by ruffians at the docks. One of them rapes and kills Lita.

The Captain's Vixen by Wanda Owen

Part Three: A New Man for the Heroine?

Elise fairs a little better as she is beaten and nearly raped again before she is rescued by a kind stranger. He is Clint Barron, an American planter and seaman. Barron takes Elise back to his ship, and tends to her, before taking her to his home in New Orleans.

During their travels, Elise and Barron become lovers. Remember, she believes that Lance is dead.

Lance, meanwhile, has tracked Ruiz to New Orleans and eventually kills him. He then makes the acquaintance of a friend of Barron’s, Zach Hart, and his daughter, Susan. Lance and Susan become lovers and they flirt with the possibility of marriage.

That all changes, when Lance attends a party at Barron’s and is shocked to see Elise alive and well. He overhears her talking about her upcoming nuptials with Barron and becomes enraged, leaving the party.

When Elise tries to explain she thought he was dead, Lance–who is seriously drunk at this time–rapes Elise.

Conclusion: They All Live Happily Ever After… Or Do They?

Despite his assault upon her, soon afterward Lance and Elise realize that they love each other. And have their “Happily Ever After”.

Or do they?

There is a sequel to this turkey, called Rapture’s Bounty. So their “Happily Ever After” is going to be delayed a bit.

The Upside

Well, Ms. Owen’s writing can only improve from here. As stated earlier, The Captain’s Vixen was clearly her first book and it shows.

The Downside

From characters appearing and then disappearing to storylines being explored and then summarily dropped, there are multiple problems with The Captain’s Vixen.

The two biggest issues for me are: #1 the endless misogyny and #2 the” hero” Lance rapes Elise and she forgives him! I don’t see why Ms. Owen had to resort to the type of abuse she forced Elise to endure here.

Plus, I have a HUGE problem with the “hero rapes the heroine and she forgives him” part of some romances. This happened far too often in older romance novels.

Sex

There are a few love scenes where Lance DOESN’T rape Elise. They are relatively tame and barely lukewarm as far as sexual heat is concerned.

Violence

There are the aforementioned multiple rapes on Elise, plus a beating. Her maid is also raped and killed.

Lance kills Ruiz. In addition, Lance and Barron have a fistfight over Lance’s violation of Elise. Nothing is described in over-graphic detail, however.

Bottom Line on The Captain’s Vixen

Parts of Wanda Owen’s Zebra bodice-ripper, The Captain’s Vixen, are good. But the rape of Elise by Lance and her forgiveness really turned me off.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
2
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2

Synopsis

Captain Lance Edwards had sailed the seas and obtained women ever since he was a lad, and no woman had ever resisted his masculine magnetism — no one but the luscious, jet-haired Elise. Passionately attracted to the strong-minded beauty, Lance struggled to overcome the resistance. Now he vowed to possess her and win her love, for he was bewitched by . . . The Captain’s Vixen!

The Captain’s Vixen by Wanda Owen
passion flower walter popp

Historical Romance Review: Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman

book review historical romance
Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Forced Seduction
Pages: 473
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman, a Zebra historical romance from 1983.

The Plot

Passion Flower begins with introductions to the heroine of the book, Catherine Mary “Jasmine” O’Neil. She is so nicknamed due to the fragrance her late mother wore, which comforted Jasmine after her mother’s death.

Jasmine lives in Jamaica with her grandfather, Franz, a physician. Later, she meets Captain Johnathon Mahn, an English ex-pat and the hero of the book. Johnathon is asked to root out arms smuggling in Jamaica, which is how he and Jasmine come to meet.

Jasmine and Franz accidentally find out about the illegal activity. Franz is killed, and Jasmine is taken captive. She is told she can gain her freedom if she spies on Johnathon.

He finds her spying on him, and they become lovers. Both later escape Jamaica and set sail for Johnathon’s plantation in Virginia.

In Virginia, Jasmine gets a job as a physician’s assistant. What she doesn’t know is that the job–and her home and many other things–are due to the largesse of Johnathon.

Jasmine also attracts many male admirers. These admirers arouse Johnathon’s jealousy, which later leads him to rape Jasmine. Jasmine and Johnathon later marry once it is known that she is pregnant.

One of the soldiers from Jamaica finds Jasmine in Virginia and kidnaps her. In the end, she is saved, and Jasmine and Johnathon then have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

The most interesting character in the book, in my view, is Bear Dog, a half-bear, half-wolf who befriends Jasmine on the ship voyage to Virginia and saves her when she is kidnapped.

The Downside

When the most interesting character in the book has four legs and fur, that is a stinging indictment of the human characters. Neither Jasmine nor Johnathon are particularly deep characters, although Jasmine is more so than Johnathon.

The storylines are flat and lifeless. The “Jamaican Gun Smuggling” trope is so lame Ms. Horsman may as well not have included it.

Then there is Johnathon’s rape of Jasmine. No romance hero ever redeems himself with me if he sexually assaults a woman.

There is very little to no romance between Jasmine and Johnathon.

Sex

There are a handful of sex scenes, none of which are graphic or interesting.

Violence

In addition to Franz’s killing, there are scenes of attempted rape, rape, assault and battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line on Passion Flower

Jennifer Horsman has enough items on the menu of Passion Flower to make a good meal. Instead, she produces a book that’s raw, like sushi.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
4
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

GARDEN OF LOVE

Gorgeous Jasmine O’Neil never meant to fall in love with the insolent handsome captain. His voice was commanding, his reputation was roguish, and his manner was much too imperious. But despite all his drawbacks, the innocent beauty couldn’t resist the spell of masculine charm and tingling pleasure he cast upon her. Suddenly, she knew she was in love – and she was certain that his declarations of desire were undying promises of matrimony.

PARADISE OF ECSTACY

Captain Johnathon Mahn couldn’t deny himself the untouched woman’s beckoning curves. He tangled himself in their sweet tormenting rapture. Nothing could ever make him give up this mistress – but nothing would ever compel him to wed! He was a man of independence who took what he wanted…and he craved his fragrant Jasmine, his velvety blossom, his delicate PASSION FLOWER.

Passion Flower by Jennifer Horseman
forbidden ecstasy popp

Historical Romance Review: Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

book review historical romance
Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Native American Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Forced Seduction
Pages: 494
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Forbidden Ecstasy (“Ecstasy/Gray Eagle Series #3″) by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

The heroine of the first four books, Alisha Williams, and her husband, Gray Eagle, the “hero,” have been officially married for four days. They have only spent two days together, however, as Gray Eagle has left Alisha to obtain supplies.

When Gray Eagle doesn’t return to her, Alisha wonders what happened.

What she doesn’t know is that Gray Eagle was shot and left for dead by her friend, Powchutu.

There are two reasons he did this:

  1. To punish Gray Eagle for his abhorrent behavior toward Alisha
  2. Powchutu is in love/lust with Alisha.

Alisha believes Powchutu’s lies about why Gray Eagle hasn’t returned, and they set off together.

On their trip, which culminates in St. Louis, Alisha and Powchutu will meet, or meet again, four people who will play a major role in their lives. They are:

  1. Joe Kenny, a white trapper
  2. Jamie O’Hara, a lodgings owne
  3. Mary O’Hara, a mute young woman and niece to Jamie O’Hara
  4. And, sadly, Jeffery Gordon, the evil ex-Army lieutenant who somehow survived the attack on Fort Pierre.

As time goes on, Jeffery blackmails Alisha, threatening great harm to her and Powchutu if she doesn’t marry him. Alisha hedges and Powchutu is killed by Jeffery’s henchmen.

Powchutu’s death pushes Alisha into marrying Jeffery, who makes her life hell on many levels. What neither knows is that Gray Eagle survived his shooting by Powchutu.

Gray Eagle comes to kill Jeffery, finds Alisha, and takes her back to the Oglala camp, subjecting her to more emotional, mental, physical, and sexual abuse along the way.

Despite all of this, by the end of the book, Gray Eagle and Alisha reconcile, as they discover that the bad things they thought about the other were not true. They decide to continue the ruse that Alisha is Shalee, make up with each other, and are happy.

For now, anyway…

The Upside

When Janelle Taylor is at her best, she ranks with Rosanne Bittner as one of my go-to authors. Mrs. Taylor’s style is lyrical and evocative. she brings her readers and me into the lives of her characters.

I felt as though I were watching the lives of the characters instead of just reading about them. Only the best authors can make me feel like that.

The Downside

While I understand Gray Eagle’s feelings about what he believes is Alisha’s betrayal of him, that doesn’t defend/excuse/justify the abuse he inflicts on her. “This kind of derails the Gray Eagle Redemption Tour” Mrs. Taylor was on in Defiant Ecstasy.

Much of the rancor between Alisha and Gray Eagle was due to a lack of trust and communication, which they haven’t had since the beginning.

Sex

Very little and not terribly exciting. Mrs. Taylor does have a few books which have some spice to them. The first three books in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series are not among them.

Violence

There is, however, a lot of violence. Assault, battery, attempted murder, murder, and rape. None of the violence is super graphic, but it’s there.

Bottom Line on Forbidden Ecstasy

The fact that Gray Eagle is still an unrepentant bastard and the “Stockholm Syndrome romance” between Gray Eagle and Alisha keeps me from giving Janelle Taylor’s Forbidden Ecstasy a five-star rating. 

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

ALISHA was silk and satin, honey and fire. Never before did the possession of a man fill Alisha with such excitement as when she held her handsome Indian lover in her arms. That she was a white woman living in the red man’s world did not matter. They had promised each other their hearts forever – nothing could keep them apart.

GRAY EAGLE was fierce and gentle, powerful and possessive. He would never forsake his bride of two moons; he would never let her go. But when Alisha awoke to dawn’s first light her bronze-skinned warrior was gone. Her lips were tender from his fiery kisses; her body throbbed from his fierce passion – and still she longed for him. Lost between two worlds, she was desperate and alone. Betrayed by her savage lover, she hungered for their forbidden love!

Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

tempt not this flesh

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

historical romance review
Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe
Rating: two-stars
Published: June 1, 1979
Illustrator: Jordi Penalva
Book Series: Lorna & Paul Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

The Book

Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh was yet another inexplicable bestseller for the gender-bending author whose real name was Alan Riefe. It’s a 1970s bodice ripper Playboy Press published that has very little romance, includes some rape, and lacks any real excitement.

One wonders how desperate readers in the 1970s were for anything interesting to happen in their “romances.”

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Tempt Not This Flesh, definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes like this:

“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”

Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could? It was like being brutally raped, only to have your assaulter satisfy his lust, then turn around and propose marriage. His logic, his love-supplanted-by-hate-which-in-turn-could-be-supplanted-once-again-by-love idea was false. Absurd as far as she was concerned.

so wicked the heart
So Wicked the Heart, Barbara Riefe, Playboy, 1980, Sanjulian cover art
(Book #2 in the Lorna & Paul trilogy)

The Plot

Poor Lorna only wanted to enjoy her honeymoon and make love to her husband.

That’s how the book starts, with Lorna Singleton-Stone, formerly of Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, and her husband Philip making love at an inn in Boston. But before the night is out, her husband is brutally murdered right before her eyes, and Lorna is kidnapped and set on a ship headed to a nightmare.

A nefarious Count holds Lorna held captive in the small kingdom of Savoy. He has plans for her, as a crazy king and wicked queen rule during turbulent times. Except for her hair color, Lorna looks. almost identical to Queen Caroline-Louisa. The Count forces Lorna to pose as her double. He has her head s shaved as smooth as a freshly-shat-out egg, thus cementing the frightening trauma that begins.

Many evildoers threaten Lorna with torture, terrorize her, and attempted assassination. She raped several times (really raped, no forced seductions here).

But her will is steel. She will not break. Lorna may be forced into this game of madness, but she plans to survive at all costs.

Along the way, she meets and falls for Paul, the Queen’s lover, who has a secret plan of survival himself. Twists and turns occur. Sadly, though, what started out as a promising adventure turned into a slow, painful slosh through muddy waters.

Final Analysis of Tempt Not This Flesh

You know the meme with the guy with the awesome sideburns, who rages on about “The rent being too damned high!”? In this book, “The paragraphs were too damned long!” It was full of info-dumps that bored me and caused me to skim.

A lot.

A whole lot, especially past the halfway point when all I wanted was to get it over with!

By the end, my eyes couldn’t handle those page-long paragraphs on yellowed paper. Or the words in a faded size-8 old-timey serif font. (What is the name of that font, anyway? It’s not Baskerville, right? I should know this!)

Yeesh, it turns out that trying to find a great read in these old Playboy Press books is akin to dumpster diving. You hope to find an untouched 5-star gourmet meal sealed up in one of those fancy take-out aluminum-foil swans. But…

It’s possible, for sure. However, it’s a messy slog to get there. And there’s a 100% chance you’ll end up with lots of stinky crap in your hands first; if ever you do find one.

P.S. If anyone knows the name of that font/typeface that many of these old books were written in, let me know. [Somehwere from the mid-1950s to the early-1980s era. I feel like an idiot not knowing something so basic. Thanks.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.4

Synopsis

Tempt Not This Flesh is a story of abduction and sexual enslavement, a story of passion unleashed and unbounded. And above all it is the story of a woman’s love, shattered like glass, then resurrected, rekindled by a dashing captain of dragoons. A love so powerful it is forged into a weapon that topples a dynasty. 

TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH by BARBARA RIEFE
pasion's slave

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Slave by Kay McMahon

historical romance review
Passion's Slave by Kay McMahon
Rating: one-star
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Book Series: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 525
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Slave by Kay McMahon

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I really want to like Kay McMahon’s books, mainly because I like her female characters. However, there is one thing I cannot and will not accept about books–regardless of when they are written. That is when the “hero” of the book rapes the heroine. Such is the case with Passion’s Slave by Kay McMahon.

The Plot

Part 1

Alanna Bainbridge is a young Englishwoman who is brought to America by her father and stepmother, ostensibly to have a better life. What she doesn’t know, and it’s not explained why is that she is being sold into indentured servitude.

She is bought by Beau Remington, the owner of the Raven Oaks plantation in Virginia. Upon hearing that she is an indentured servant, Alanna tries twice to escape. She is captured, beaten, and later raped twice by Beau. This only fuels her hatred of him, but yet, as only typical 1980s romance novels can–this book was published in December 1983-she falls in love with him! They do have consensual sexual encounters later on.

Also in the picture is Beau’s friend, Radford Chamberlain, who falls in love with Alanna and eventually proposes to her, much to Beau’s chagrin. There is a major fly in the ointment, and that is Radford’s “fiancee”, Melissa Bensen. (Radford and Melissa aren’t actually engaged.)

Part 2

She earlier wanted to marry Beau, but he didn’t want her, so she set her sights on Radford.) Melissa, upon meeting Alanna, becomes so jealous that she eventually arranges for Alanna to be kidnapped and sold to a New Orleans brothel.

While the kidnapping goes through, the pirate Melissa pays off, Dillon Gallagher, doesn’t take Alanna to the brothel because she reminds him of his late sister, who was raped and later committed suicide.

When Beau and Radford try to rescue Alanna, tragedy strikes. Radford is killed in the process. He leaves Alanna his estate, Briarwood Manor, which is falling into disrepair due to Radford’s financial difficulties.

Later, Beau sells Raven Oaks to his real father, Joshua Cain-who he thought was only his overseer on his plantation-to help Alanna, with her plantation. This is supposed to be a sign that Beau actually loves Alanna.

The Upside and the Downside

For much of the book, Ms. McMahon tries to rehabilitate Beau by claiming that his actions are partially the result of his mother not loving him. She also has him show contrition for his actions. But I don’t buy any of that. Most human beings, in my experience, feel bad after they do something wrong, not before or during.

It’s also bothersome to me that no one around Beau holds him in any way accountable for what he did to Alanna. Yes, the book is set in the 1700s and was written in 1983, but the fact that everyone around, including Alanna, is or becomes okay with Beau raping her is sickening to me.

Sex

There are a few sex scenes, a few pages long but not overly graphic.

Violence

Violence: in addition to Alanna being raped, she is beaten with a whip after she tries to run away. Later, she is assaulted to get her on board the pirate ship. Once there, two of Gallagher’s crew try to rape her; they don’t succeed. Gallagher then beats the pirates and throws them off his ship, literally. Then, as mentioned earlier, Radford is shot and killed when he and Beau confront Gallagher about Alanna’s kidnapping.

Bottom Line on Passion’s Slave

In the interest of fairness, there were many books of the 1970s and 80s that featured the “hero” of the book raping the heroine; it was considered a pretty standard publishing practice in the romance novel industry during that time.

However, the fact that it was an accepted practice doesn’t make it okay to me. I cannot give a positive review to any book that features this fact. That is a stain that will never come clean in my eyes, and that makes Passion’s Slave by Kay McMahon one I cannot say good things about.

1.12 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
0
Fun Factor
3
Cover
0.5
Overall: 1.3

Synopsis

THE HAWK was the image that came to Alanna’s mind whenever she saw the sleek powerful master of Raven Oaks plantation. Beau Remington was the kind of man who would stalk his prey until he got what he wanted. He wanted lovely Alanna. Just one look at her full firm curves and long black hair sent flashes of fire through his loins. And though he knew she was no ordinary woman it didn’t matter. He had purchased her papers and belonged to him — body and soul…

THE DOVE was the image that came to Beau’s mind whenever he saw soft alluring Alanna. However, beneath her innocence lay a defiant and determined young beauty who would never surrender her freedom and whose only desire was to escape. But once she tasted Beau’s fierce demanding kisses and melted into his embrace, Alanna learned that not only was she his servant — she was forever PASSION’S SLAVE…

PASSIONS SLAVE by KAY MCMAHON

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Ransom (aka Not Quite Married) by Betina Krahn

book review historical romance
Rapture's Ransom by Betina Krahn
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Pirate Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Ransom (aka Not Quite Married) by Betina Krahn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Rapture’s Ransom by Betina Krahn, a Zebra historical romance. This was later reissued and retitled as Not Quite Married.

The Set-Up

The book begins in the South of England in 1787.

It is here that Brien Weston, the heroine of the book, lives–a better term might be “exists”–with her father, Lord Lawrence Weston, the sixth Earl of Southward.

The relationship between father and child is strained and becomes even more so when Lawrence, after a trip to France, announces he has affianced Brien to a man, Raoul Trechard, whom she has never met.

The Plot

When Brien and Raoul finally meet, Brien feels there is a possibility of a love match. That feeling quickly dissipates, however, when Brien learns Raoul’s true colors. She tries to end the engagement, even going so far as to lose her virginity to a stranger to deny Raoul that opportunity.

None of the efforts work, however, and Brien finds herself married to Raoul, who kidnaps, imprisons, and rapes her. She is freed from this torment when Raoul dies in a fire.

Over a year later, Brien meets the man she gave herself to, his name is Aaron Durham, the hero of the book. Brien is sailing to the colonies on business; Aaron is the captain of the ship she’s sailing on, and they re-establish their relationship as lovers during the trip and after they arrive at their destination, Boston.

Brien and Aaron’s happiness is threatened by several factors:

  • Horace Van Zandt: an evil privateer who has a history–and bad blood–with Aaron.
  • Differences in their viewpoints, Aaron wants to live in America and denies his status as a peer of the realm; Brien wishes to live in England.
  • The de Saunier Family: the unnamed patriarch of which tries to force Brien to marry his other son, Louis.
  • Brien’s pregnancy.

The book ends with Brien and Aaron married. They are parents of a son, Garrett, whose presence helps Aaron begin to repair the strained relationship he has with his father, Thomas.

Aaron and Brien have their Happily Ever After.

rapture's ransom not quite married
(Alternate Title version) Not Quite Married, Betina Krahn, Bantam, 2004 edition, Alan Ayers cover art

Upside

It is rare in early 1980’s books–Rapture’s Ransom was first published in November 1983–to have a non-Simpering Sara heroine, but Ms. Krahn does just that in this book. To be fair, this is not entirely about Brien’s strength-Lawrence doesn’t have any sons or male relatives, and Brien is his only surviving child–but still, strength is strength.

Downside

I didn’t feel that Ms. Krahn did enough to flesh out Brien or Aaron. We barely hear about their extended families and only meet Thomas Durham in the last few chapters of the book.

I also didn’t like the fact that two of the villains in the book–Van Zandt and de Saunier–escape basically unscathed despite their deviltry, and even though Raoul dies in a fire, it still feels less than it could have been. I love series-like E.J. Hunter’s “White Squaw”-where the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Sex

There are love scenes, but they are, for the most part, quite mild.

Violence

Scenes of assault, battery, and threats. The one death occurs “off-screen.”

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Ransom

Betina Krahn’s Rapture’s Ransom–aka Not Quite Married–is a sold low four-star book. There are simply too many areas of concern to rate it any higher.

3.99

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
3
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

THE COST OF COMFORT
Golden-haired Brien was indescribably happy: soon she would be the wife of a rich, handsome Frenchman. But when the glowing bride-to-be heard her fiance’s drunken bragging about his past exploits, she couldn’t bear the thought of matrimony to such a scoundrel. There was no way out — and Brien decided that if she must suffer a lifetime by the wastrel’s side, she would delight in just one night of pleasure before her hateful marriage began.

THE PRICE OF PASSION
Dark, rugged Allen Stewart wondered who had summoned him to the discreet, quiet inn, but when he saw the lush, lovely lady, he felt the need for ecstasy, not explanations. They shared a night of unbridled desire — then Allen awoke to a cold, empty bed. the soft, fragrant beauty had bewitched him and he swore that he’d search the whole world and pay any price for RAPTURE’S RANSOM.

RAPTURE’S RANSOM by BETINA KRAHN
Dangerous Obsession natasha peters

Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Don Stivers
Book Series: Culhane Duo #2
Published by: Ace
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 630
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters‘ first epic bodice ripper romance, Savage Surrender.

However, don’t feel you need to read one to be comfortable reading the other. The relationship between the two books is not revealed until midway through this 630-page epic.

The Set-Up

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans twelve years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman.

American Seth Garrett has business to deal with in Russia. There, he will meet Rhawnie, and there begins a rocky love story that will span continents and years.

The Plot and the Characters

The Heroine, Rhawnie

Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, to herself! Rhawnie even lies on her (near) deathbed!

She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife, and a whole chicken!

When caught red-handed, she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this, Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter, [Note: she was 7 when I originally wrote this review] who lives by the motto: “Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.”

Rhawnie is not a mere mortal. She is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, and card cheat, and a baroness.

Men duel and die over her. She is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, the savior of an orphan, and a wronged woman.

Last and most of all, Rhawnie is the love object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.”

The Hero, Seth

The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work, and it took me a long time to warm up to him.

He’s no Sean Culhane or Duke Domenico, but he’s both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie’s virginity in a card game but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. Her lecherous, older uncle then, in angry retaliation, beats and kicks Rhawnie while Seth just sort of stands there.

Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her–even though he’s in the next room and can hear what’s going on!

He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress.

And the evil Seth inflicts upon Rhawnie in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice that never occurs.

But…he does properly declare himself at the end (if that redemption/groveling arc matters to you). He gives himself completely to Rhawnie.

Seth is not perfect, but neither is Rhawnie, so together, they are perfect.

The Good and the Bad

Dangerous Obsession is written in the first person, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances.

However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and Natasha Peters could have cut it 75 to 50 pages shorter.

Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth’s missing sister that takes them through the American west.

They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river. Seth gets injured, and Rhawnie nurses him back to life. Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment of camphor, cannabis, and caviar, no less)!

They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures; she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, gets addicted to laudanum, gets rescued…

And before you know it–whew! It’s over.

Final Analysis of Dangerous Obsession

Natasha Peters’ Dangerous Obsession was so close to perfect. It’s such a shame that, like so many bodice rippers, in the end, it falters under its own hefty weight.

Nevertheless, I’m rounding my initial 4.5-star rating up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis:

She was daring and defiant; tender and wanton. She was child; she was woman. she was Rhawnie.

From a starving gypsy in Russia to an exotic demi-mondaine in Paris to a countess in Bavaria to a sensation in New York from a survivor in the western wilderness to a card shark in San Francisco — such were the heights and depths of existence for Rhawnie.

Her wit, her cunning, her beauty, the sensuous delights she performs to well protect her even as they cause her agony and shame. For deep in her soul is a love for a man, a man who has brought her only degradation and heartbreak.

Wherever she goes, whatever she does, Rhawnie cannot escape Seth Garrett. The constant ache for his arms, the ever present need for the fires of passion he alone can ignite, and his relentless pursuit of her have made her his prisoner. Across continents fleeing danger and death, Rhawnie runs…from this man…from herself…until she knows that with a love so powerful, a love so shameless, she can do nothing but surrender!

DANGEROUS OBSESSION by NATASHA PETERS
a naked flame ray olivere

Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sad to report, but A Naked Flame has to be the worst Charlotte Lamb book I’ve read so far.

The Plot

Christie married Logan, a man 12 years her senior when she was only 18. They lived in California and she hoped to start a career in Hollywood, but her chauvinist husband wouldn’t allow it. Logan controlled her life totally and wanted children ASAP, but Christie wanted to wait.

They argued, he raped her, and she left and filed for divorce. The rape resulted in a child.

For five years Mommy and Daddy never see each other while sharing custody of their son. Now Christie is a hot movie star with a male “friend” whom she mercilessly cock-teases. The press hounds Christie so much that she moves to England with her son–-without telling her ex-husband. This obviously angers Logan and he and Christie fight it out for custody.

Drama ensues and Christie and Logan realize their feelings for each other still run hot.

My Opinion

It’s not the plot of A Naked Flame I object to; it’s the horrific execution.

Up until page 100, the hero and heroine interact twice, except for a brief flash-back into their marriage. It’s as if Charlotte Lamb wanted to write a longer book, but found she had almost maxed out her word count. So she just summarized all the interesting parts and drew out all the boring, mundane scenes of Christie going to lunch and parties with another guy.

The actual romance portion of this book is limited to two, maybe two and a half chapters. I wouldn’t have minded if the scenes with the other man were fun, or at least we saw the heroine’s personal journey to “enlightenment” or sumthin’…but no.

Final Analysis of A Naked Flame

Christie is a Cnidarian of the lowest order. (That’s a fancy word I learned for jellyfish. See, home-schooling works for parents and kids.)

As for the other man…why isn’t he ever named something strong like Wolf or Magnus? Instead, he’s named Sheldon or Arnie or Dilbert or in this case Ziggy!

So our major conflict in Charlotte Lamb’s A Naked Flame consists of a love triangle between the Sensitive-New-Age-Guy slacker type:

ziggy

And our manly hero Logan:

logan

Enough said.

What a pointless boring book with a wishy-washy, stupid heroine who wouldn’t know her butt crack from the Grand Canyon.

Uggh.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

This time Christie would stand up to him

Christie had been far too young and intoxicated with love when she and Logan had married. He’d wanted a family. She’d needed sometime to pursue her career.

After their painful breakup Christie had resented carrying Logan’s child. But now her son was even more vital to Christie’s happiness than her career as a famous film star had ever been. And she wouldn’t let Logan use lies and gossip to take Kit away from her.

Losing Logan’s love had almost destroyed Christie. She couldn’t bear to lose their son as well.

A NAKED FLAME by CHARLOTTE LAMB
Bold Texas Embrace

Historical Romance Review: Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson

historical romance review
Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: The Cowboy and the Lady #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 478
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Bold Texas Embrace, #4 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson (Zebra/Kensington December 1989).

The Characters

Heroine: Catherine Eaton, 23. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Teacher. Originally from Philadelphia.

Hero: Sam Connors, 32. Black hair, black eyes. Owner, The Spur ranch.

The Plot

As the story begins, Catherine Eaton has arrived in Crosswicks, Texas, from her home in Philadelphia to teach the town’s children. One of the children, David Connors, 15, has great drawing skills and wants to be an artist.

This interest, however, puts him at odds with his older half-brother Sam Connors, the hero of the book. Sam, who is also David’s guardian, has his own goals for David, and soon Catherine finds herself in conflict with Sam, even as she is becoming attracted to him and him to her.

Catherine and Sam become lovers, however, he is also dealing with a range\war, as well as trying to keep David from falling for a grasping, scheming young woman.

In the end, the range war doesn’t happen. David goes to Philadelphia. Catherine and Sam marry, have a child, and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Bold Texas Embrace is pretty much standard Ms. Thompson historical romance. Her characters are very much in touch with their emotions and readers can see the emotional pinball the characters deal with.

Downside

Ms. Thompson didn’t make me care enough about Catherine and Sam. Part of this is the fact that there are WAY too many similarities between Bold Texas Embrace and the previous book in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series.

To wit:

  • Both heroines–Felicity Storm in the former book, and Catherine Eaton in the latter–are from Philadelphia. However, they don’t know each other.
  • Both women are artistically inclined. Felicity is a photographer; Catherine is an artist.
  • Both fall in love with and marry Texas ranchers.

I get that any creative person will occasionally repeat themselves, but it’s nice to have a little space between repeats. The characters are not particularly well developed and the “range war” storyline is unfinished and weak.

Sex

The love scenes between Catherine and Sam aren’t particularly romantic, nor do they generate any real heat. The first sex scene between Catherine and Sam can be described as forced seduction at best, rape at worst.

Violence

Assault, battery, shootings, and killings take place. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Bold Texas Embrace

Bold Texas Embrace is my least favorite book in Victoria Thompson’s loose “The Cowboy and the Lady” series.

Location: Crosswicks, Texas.

Time: unknown.

Tropes: Artist heroine. Historical romance. Rancher hero. Texas.

2.66 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis:

HOT-BLOODED RANCHER

Art teacher Catherine Eaton could hardly believe how stubborn Sam Conners was! Even though the rancher’s young stepbrother was an exceptionally talented painter, Sam forbade Catherine to instruct him, fearing that art would make a sissy out of him. Spunky and determined, the blond schoolmarm confronted the mule-headed cowboy…only to find that he was as handsome as he was hard-headed and as desirable as he was dictatorial. Before long she had nearly forgotten what she’d come for, as Sam’s brash, breathless embrace drove her mind all thought of anything save wanting him…

HOT TEMPERED SCHOOLMARM

Sam Conners was too absorbed by a range war to pay any attention to the town talk about a fancy new schoolteacher from Philadelphia. But when petite, pretty Catherine Eaton marched into his office, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. From the instant she opened her lush red mouth, Sam didn’t agree with a word she said. He kissed her to shut her up, then proceeded to take her mind off her troubles with some irresistible arguments of his own…until she was powerless to resist his BOLD TEXAS EMBRACE.

Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson
the sheik

Classic Romance Review: The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

 classic romance
The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull
Rating: five-stars
Published: November 10, 1919
Illustrator: N/A
Book Series: Sheik Duo #1
Genres: Classic Romance, Contemporary Romance, Bodice Ripper, Harem Romance, Forced Seduction
Pages: 296
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Classic Romance Review: The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Sheik by Edith M. Hull, published in 1919, is as influential to the modern romance genre as Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps, more so.

The salacious book was a blockbuster of a success, despite its many detractors. While some modern readers may cringe at its depiction of women, sexual roles, and racial attitudes, The Sheik remains a compelling read one hundred years after its publication.

the sheik

The Sheik: The Grandmother of Bodice Rippers

“Shall I make you care? Shall I make you love me? I can make women love me when I choose.”

This year, 2022, is the 50th anniversary of Kathleen E. Woodwiss’ the Flame and the Flower, the first “modern romance novel.” The roots of modern romance go back further than 1972, however.

Although Pride and Prejudice and other works by Jane Austen were critiques of manners and social mores, the love stories were at the heart and center. For that reason, her books are considered both as literature and among the first romance novels.

As far as I’m concerned, Jane Austen and all her imitators–Georgette Heyer included–didn’t influence the modern historical genre as The Sheik did.

Oh, I liked the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy just fine. I don’t obsess over it as many do. Charlotte Bronte’s tale of Jane Eyre was far more to my liking, anyway. Jane Eyre, however, is more of an ancestor to Gothic romance.

the sheik grandmother of the bodice ripper.

The First Modern Romance Novel?

“What I have I keep, until I tire of it–and I have not tired of you yet.”

For the kind of romances I enjoy, their roots lie with Edith Maude Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik. It is the grandmother of the bodice ripper. If not for the closed-door bedroom scenes, this book would have fit right in with the romances penned in the 1970s.

In 1921, the silent film adaptation of the novel starring Agnes Ayres came out. It catapulted Rudolph Valentino’s career into movie stardom. I recall watching the film as a teen and practically swooning over the fantastic tale.

Decades later, I finally got around to reading the novel.

the sheik

The Characters and the Plot

He had seen her, had wished for her, and had taken her, and once in his power it had amused him to break her to his hand.

British-born Diana Mayo has it all: fashionable looks, wealth, and a multitude of male admirers. She’s young, thoroughly modern, and fiercely independent. If someone tells her not to do something, she considers it a dare.

Filled with boredom, the wild Diana travels to Algeria to seek adventure.

And she finds it in the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who kidnaps her and whisks her off to his desert oasis.

Between the two will be fierce, passion-filled clashes filled. Diana is a contemporary-minded woman who demands equality from her peers. Even so, she cannot resist the allure of the savage, almost primitive male who seeks to dominate her.

When first published, there was nothing like this book.

the sheik

Intriguing Gender Dynamics

Some historians have noted that during “conservative” eras, the idealized feminine form becomes more “traditional.” Typically, in times of social transformation, she is perceived to be more fluid.

In the 1960’s natural hair, short skirts, and slim figures, a la model Twiggy or Mia Farrow, reigned.

In the 1980s, the style was big hair, full lips, and 36-24-36 figures like Kelly LeBrock and Cindy Crawford.

The 1920s was a post War society with women in politics and the popularization of the motion picture. Ideas of sex, gender, and sexual mores were radically changed from the rigid Victorian/Edwardian and Gilded Age Eras on both sides of the Atlantic. Hair was bobbed, hemlines were raised, and large breasts were out-of-fashion.

The Sheik is a product of its time, with Hassan noting:

But the emotion that this girl’s uncommon beauty and slender boyishness had aroused in him had not diminished during the months she had been living in his camp.

The omniscient narrator constantly refers to Diana’s boyish figure and her as a splendid example of a “garcon manque,” a French term for tomboy. That was the old-fashioned term for girls who “behave” like and hang around boys.

It made for a fascinating sexual dynamic that was only flirted with and never really delved deeply into.

the sheik

The Sheik, A Controversial Novel

To say this is a controversial book is an understatement. Because it was such a phenomenal hit, critics could not ignore it, and they were divided in their opinions. Unlike, say, Fifty Shades of GreyThe Sheik cannot be dismissed for lack of quality.

The New York Times labeled the book as “shocking” but written with “a high degree of literary skill.” It was considered “salacious” and “tawdry.”

“What do you expect of a savage? When an Arab sees a woman that he wants he takes her. I only follow the customs of my people.”

If there was contention about this book 123 years ago, it’s practically obscene today and viewed as problematic. It has been accused of promoting part of rape culture, and it reeks of colonial attitudes.

There may be merit to discussing those arguments, as nothing exists in a vacuum. Nevertheless, I say, “Yes. And?” Fiction demands the freedom to write from any perspective. If it is a story worth telling, the story will be told.

the sheik

My Opinion

“If he killed me he could not kill my love!”

From its initial publication continuing to this day, The Sheik remains scandalous. It was an immediate bestseller, yet it received no respect from critics. The novel was labeled “poisonously salacious” by the Literary Review. It was even banned from some communities.

And it was a huge sensation, launching a subgenre of desert romances, several sequels, film adaptations, and Rudolph Valentino’s career.

The influence of The Sheik on romance is undeniable. For many readers, it still strikes a chord today. Despite Diana’s position as a kidnapping victim, there is a strong theme of female power and independence.

Even so, The Sheik gives a picture of the social order of its time. It captured the contemporary attitudes toward colonialism. Perhaps worse, The Sheik portrayed sexual dominance as a means to love.

the sheik

Final Analysis of The Sheik

E. M. Hull’s desert epic made me feel like a 12-year-old young girl discovering romance. For me, The Sheik was a thrilling experience! It’s pure entertainment, a rush from start to finish. I loved the film; the book was even better.

Without this romance, I don’t know if bodice-rippers or Mills & Boon romances, or the Harlequin Presents line would have ever existed. As stated, The Sheik is grandmother of the bodice ripper.

As for the naysayers?

Perhaps it’s good advice not to take fiction so seriously.

The Sheik is unreality. A dark fantasy. An erotic nightmare. Perhaps a little of both.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis:

Diana Mayo is young, beautiful, wealthy–and independent. Bored by the eligible bachelors and endless parties of the English aristocracy, she arranges for a horseback trek through the Algerian desert. Two days into her adventure, Diana is kidnapped by the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who forces her into submission. Diana tries desperately to resist but finds herself falling in love with this dark and handsome stranger.

Only when a rival chieftain steals Diana away does the Sheik realize that what he feels for her is more than mere passion. He has been conquered–and risks everything to get her back. The power of love reaches across the desert sands, leading to the thrilling and unexpected conclusion.

THE SHEIK BY EDITH MAUD HULL
angel's caress deana james franco

Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

book review historical romance
Angel's Caress by Deana James
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Hunter-Gillard Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Civil War Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Forced Seduction
Pages: 447
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and the Characters

This review is of Angel’s Caress, book #4 in the “Texas/ Hunter-Gillard” series by Deana James. (Zebra/KensingtonJuly 1989).

Heroine: Fair Eleanor-Christine “Ellie Crain,” 16. Black hair, golden eyes.

Hero: Cash Gillard. Dark blonde hair, brown eyes. Courier/soldier, Union Army. Rapist.

The Plot

Part I: There Came an Angel from the East

The book begins on a farm in Tennessee during the Civil War. Living on the farm are members of the Crain family. There is an unnamed man called Grandpaw; his daughter, Mahala; her stepdaughter Fair Eleanor-Christine ”Ellie” Crain; and Mahala’s biological children, two daughters, Mary Magdalene and Viola; and a brother, Jeremiah “Jere.”

Mahala’s husband–-and the children’s father–-Thomas Peyton, is off fighting for the Confederacy in the war. The family is forced out of their home by Union soldiers.

Among them is Cash Gillard, the hero of the book. Cash later rapes Ellie.

Part II: In Frost!

Upon discovering Ellie and Cash’s relationship, Mahala throws Ellie out of the Crain homestead. Ellie goes with Cash and becomes a laundress for the Union Army.

We also learn a bit about Cash’s background. He is the son of Alex Gillard, and the grandson of Caroline Fancy England Gillard and Hunter Gillard, from Deana James’ previous Zebra romance, Captive Angel.

Alex later appears, separately visiting both Cash and Ellie.

Part III: Out Fire!

Ellie returns home, and Cash is shot and wounded as the fighting in the war intensifies. He later comes to the Crain homestead, where Ellie nurses him back to health, much to the chagrin of Mahala, who orders him to leave.

Cash does, taking Ellie with him and they live… Happily one supposes.

Upside

The best part of Angel’s Caress is the last chapter, where some of the questions raised after Captive Angel are answered. The revelations are both surprising and interesting.

Downside

Unfortunately, this information is in chapter 28, which means to get to it, one has to go through 27 other chapters. And that is where the problems lie.

The book contains many elements I didn’t understand or like, such as paranormal elements. I can accept some paranormal elements in books, but the ones in Angel’s Caress are both hard to understand and accept for me.

The characters in the book fall into two categories: not interesting or unlikeable. And some, like Ellie and Cash, fall into both.

I was uncomfortable with Ellie falling in love with a “man” who raped her. However, I also understood it. In my personal and professional experience, people who grow up in dysfunctional homes–and Ellie’s home is definitely dysfunctional–will, in all likelihood, have at least one dysfunctional relationship with a non-family member at some point in their lives.

Cash is a rapist. Nothing more needs to be said about him.

There is no character development and the storylines–such as they are–are incredibly boring.

Sex

There are two “love” scenes post-Cash’s rape of Ellie. The scenes try to generate heat but fail.

Violence

Assault, battery, rape, shooting, and killings all occur during Angel’s Caress. The violence is mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Angel’s Caress

The book Ms. James wrote prior to this, Captive Angel, was a Rolls-Royce book. This was entirely due to that book’s heroine, Caroline Fancy England Gillard. Angel’s Caress is a Ford Edsel.

The ONLY thing keeping this book above 1 star is the first half of chapter 28.

***

Settings: Tennessee, circa 1862.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist Hero. Underage heroine

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.5

Synopsis:

Ellie looked like heaven. After seeing nothing but the blue-coated soldiers for months, sweet sixteen-year-old Ellie Crain was the sexiest sight virile Cash Gillard had ever set his battle-weary eyes on. And as a man unused to sensual deprivation, nothing could’ve kept the Yankee corporal away from the innocent farm girl’s ivory skin and youthful curves. Planning to love and leave the wench, he suppressed his tender feelings for her. But as he satisfied his desire, their fates were bound ever tighter with each kiss, each whisper, each caress.

Raised on a southern Tennessee farm, clever Ellie Crain was no stranger to the facts of life and she recognized the gleam in the Union officer’s eyes as pure animal lust. The untouched beauty steeled herself against the Northerner’s invasion and was shocked to feel his touch gentle, his embrace arousing. The inexperienced girl blossomed into a passionate woman who would fight to keep her first man. Cash had taken her against her will now she’d make him pay for making her respond with a lover’s heart and an Angel’s Caress.

ANGEL’S CARESS by DEANA JAMES
yankee mistress

Historical Romance Review: Yankee Mistress by Ashley Snow

Synopsis:

Black-Hearted Captain

When lovely abolitionist Selene Sprague overheard secret Confederate strategy, the spiriited miss knew right then and there her duty was to inform the Union army. But as she galloped off into the inky night, cunning Rebel officer Wade Kinsolving reined in her horse and managed to lock Selene in his arms until she revealed her scheme. Refusing to admit to the pleasure of his embrace, the patriotic wench swore she’d undermine the traitor’s plans—even if it meant pretending ecstasy with each kiss they shared.

Busybody Beauty

Captain Wade Kinsolving figured the gorgeous eavesdropper was up to no good, but since the sumptuous spy was so enticing, he’d punish her his own way. His bedroll would be her prison, his company would be her penance, and his caresses would be her torture. The arrogant Southerner gloried in ruining each of the willful girl’s tricks and, craving the challenge of changing the hatred in her eyes to rapture, decided he’d make her his forever, as his own foxy, sassy Yankee mistress.

YANKEE MISTRESS by ASHLEY SNOW

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Yankee Mistress a standalone from May 1989 by Ashley Snow, published by Zebra/Kensington as a Zebra Heartfire.

The Plot

Yankee Mistress by Ashley Snow begins at an unspecified time during the Civil War. Selene Sprague, the heroine, is working in a tavern in Manassas, Virginia for her uncle, John Carpenter–both of her parents have passed. She overhears information about the Confederate war plans which will be helpful to the Union Army. Selene tries to get the plans to the Union forces but is stopped by Confederate Captain Wade Kinsolving, the hero of the book.

Wade later rapes Selene, who tries again to escape but is caught again by Wade.

After catching her again, Wade kidnaps Selene and takes her first to Norfolk, Virginia, and later to Barbados. (This is all to save his mission). He also marries Selene in a shipboard ceremony.

Selene and Wade are happy as a couple in Barbados. For a while, anyway. Their happiness ends when Simon Lazar, a contemporary of Selene’s from Virginia, arrives. Later, Lazar and Selene head to London. Wade soon arrives in London, and he and Selene reunite and have sex. He also achieves part of his mission, or so he thinks. Selene leaves London after being brutally assaulted by Lazar and killing him.

Selene returns to Virginia to search for Wade. Their first reunion doesn’t go well, but eventually, they reconcile.

In the end, Wade kills Lazar, who miraculously survived his attempted killing by Selene, and she and Wade have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

There is one good sex scene in the book. Beyond that…

Downside

Wade is a 2x rapist, an emotional, mental, and physical abuser. He is, to put it simply, a human piece of fecal matter.

While I can give Selene some credit for her strength in nursing the wounded and dead during the Civil War, and I can allow that she has little control over what happens to her due to the fact that she has no money, I can criticize her for her decision to fall in love with an individual who abuses her and treats her poorly throughout the book, which I found extraordinarily stupid. There is zero character development and no romance at all between Selene and Wade. None of the characters in the book are remotely likable.

Sex

As mentioned, there is one good sex scene. There are others, but they don’t approach a decent level.

Violence

As mentioned, Wade rapes Selene twice. She is also raped a third time by a peer of the realm. There are other scenes of assault, battery, wounded soldiers, and killings. The violence other than the rapes is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Yankee Mistress

I never thought I would read a book worse than Cassie Edwards’ dreadful, Eugenia’s Embrace. With Yankee Mistress, Ashley Snow has proven me sadly wrong.

0 stars.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist “Hero”.

0.5 Stars

Skye O'Malley bertrice small

Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Glenn Madison
Book Series: The O'Malley Saga #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Erotic Romance, Harem Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Tudor Era Romance
Pages: 480
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

Spoiler Alert ⚠

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, pert boobies, and a fantastical 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!”

The Plot

Any man who looks upon her nubile beauty will be inflicted with priapism.

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.

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.

Women, be they the female pirate Grace O’Malley or the Queen of England herself, Queen Bee, are intimidated by her beauty and her fiery, passionate nature!

And men… Well, they all want to delve their pulsing lances into her moist, dewy petaled sheath.

But though Skye had learned the womanly arts she had not become a biddable female. Not Skye O’Malley!

Hero #1

Not one hero will do for our eponymous goddess of a heroine, Skye O’Malley. She’s too hot and needs a lot of thick hose to put out her fires!

The daughter of an Irish laird/pirate named Dubhdara, Skye is secretly in love with Niall, a powerful lord’s son. Alas, she is too saucy a wench and will never do for Niall. So the powers that be connive to wed Skye to their son, dumb Dom.

Then our hero does something that shocks everyone. On Skye’s wedding night, Niall stuns the revelers when he interrupts the festivities, points his finger at Skye, and says, “I claim droit de seigneur of this woman!” Which is so goofy, and like the film “Braveheart,” ahistorical, but just go with it.

Afterward, Skye is left to live with Dom, who’s got a giant wang, but only teases Skye with it, as he never lasts long. Besides, it’s incestuous hook-ups with his sister, Claire, he prefers.

Occasionally, Dom brings Skye into their little dalliances, although Skye is unwilling. She bares Dom’s 2 sons before he’s paralyzed and then eventually dies.

Niall, in the meantime, was married off to frigid, crazed Darragh, whom he eventually casts aside. She enters a nunnery, and now he and Skye are free to marry.

Hero #2

Uh-uh-uh, not so fast.

Our independent Skye demands to expand her father’s shipping business, and wouldn’t you know it, she gets shipwrecked and loses her memory.

Skye ends up in Algiers to have yet another true love affair, this time with the Grand Whoremaster of Algiers, Khaled-El-Bey. In Bertrice Small’s corner of Romancelandia, Irish-Welsh-Scottish-English women from the Middle Ages to post-Enlightenment were drawn to harems like sharp nails to magnets (ouch, bad metaphor).

Skye becomes one of his earthly houris, but strictly for his personal use, and not only that but his top bitch, her poon so fine, even the biggest pimp in all of pimpdom has to put a ring on it.

Niall is this time married off to a Spanish girl. The sweet, innocent virgin Niall seduces and then marries turns out to be the opposite of wife #1. She’s an insatiable nympho who becomes a clandestine whore because even with Niall giving it to her three times a night, it’s not enough.

Yada, yada, yada, Skye O’Malley gives Khaled El-Bey a daughter, but he croaks due to harem machinations and jealousy.

Skye, who’s so awesome she can always depend on the kindness of strangers to help her out, leaves for England, even though she still has amnesia.

Hero #3

There she is pursued by yet another true love, Geoffrey.

The blond, green-eyed arrogant Lord Southwood bets that he can seduce the mysterious Skye, who spurns him, then entices him, and makes him fall for her until… she’s his!

Oh, and he’s married. Skye doesn’t care.

His wife dies and eventually, Skye marries Geoffrey and is blissfully happy. Until that is, her memory returns when she sees Niall almost killed and screams out his name. But again, they’re married to different people, so they can’t be together.

I hated Geoffrey and was glad when he kicked the bucket.

He blamed his first wife for being unable to bear sons and threw it in her face that’s why he abandoned her. His perfect Skye would have no trouble giving him sons, though. Her vag is pH balanced to accept only the most macho of y-alleles (and only a rare x-swimmer).

She bears Geoffrey two boys, one who dies with his father during the pox.

The Villain & the Honestly Nice Guy

After Geoffrey dies, Skye is left unprotected, as the wicked Queen Bess forces Skye to be her beloved Earl of Lessessester, er–any-who, Lord Robert Dudley’s plaything.

A little bestiality is hinted at as the awful Robert uses his servants as sex slaves to be used by his friends.

But not Skye. Skye, he will abuse her for his own purposes and not in a fun way. Dudley rapes Skye until he’s had his use of her, and she’s left traumatized.

After her awful arrangement with Dudley, Skye shies away from men–no, not really.

She gets involved in some smuggling and shipping with another Lord, Adam De Marisco, an Englishman.

For some reason, my favorite of Skye’s men was Adam, a nice, laughing guy with a beard who made sex pleasurable for Skye again (which, to be fair, wasn’t that difficult of a task). He was like a big teddy bear, with no arrogance, no baggage, just pure fun. Adam soothes Skye’s hurts and gives her passion without entanglements.

Why she didn’t end up with him in this book is beyond me. But he’ll make a return in the series, and I like what happened with him in All the Sweet Tomorrows.

Back to #1

Remember that lusty wife Niall had? Well, now, she’s near-death because she’s suffering from the pox (not the pox that killed Geoffrey, the other pox). 

Not Niall, though. He’s STD-free because that lucky guy gets to be this book’s hero. Due to that, having sex with a woman who’s had sex with hundreds of men doesn’t even make it hurt when he pees. Not even a weird itching!

All things fall into place, so Niall and Skye find their way back into each other’s arms. The dull, boring hero, Niall, gets his beautiful, perfect, sexual, rich, fecund, brilliant (yeah, that last one was a stretch) Skye O’Malley.

Final Analysis of Skye O’Malley

After bearing her assorted lovers and husbands (6 if you’re counting; it seems like more only because, to be fair, Skye does engage in a lot of sex) 5 children (with more kids to come), her figure–and her moist cavern of love–remain tiny and petite, unchanging despite age, births or time.

This book is a romp. Not meant to be taken deeply because if you do, you might experience heartbreak.

I am so glad I read Skye O’Malley when I was well into my twenties. If I had read this as a teen, my poor little heart wouldn’t have been able to take it.

One woman having that many men she all truly loved and in such a short amount of time (relatively), in a romance novel!

Thankfully, with maturity comes the ability to relax and not take everything so seriously, and Skye O’Malley is not a book to be taken seriously.

It’s so bad, yet so good, yet so bad… which is the best of qualities in an old bodice ripper.

I didn’t love Bertrice Small’s magnum opus Skye O’Malley, but I had a ball reading it. And that’s all that matters.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

There has never been a woman like luscious, raven-haired, hot-tempered Skye O’Malley. She is the courageous seafaring captain of her own mighty fleet, and intelligent enough to win a battle of wits with Queen Elizabeth herself. Follow along as Skye O’Malley is swept up in a journey filled with romance and passion that takes her from glittering Ireland, to lush Algeria, to the heart of London in pursuit of a unique and eternal love…

SKYE O’MALLEY by BERTRICE SMALL
raven

Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol

Synopsis:

Named for the bird of night, she vowed to fly free and soar on the wings of passion. Once, she had been Marie Celeste Ravenne, a shy and lovely free spirit plucked from her Caribbean island home to become the ward of a cruel, scheming English nobleman. But now she was Raven – a fiery temptress whose daring spirit astonished all who sailed the sea…whose sumptuous body excited the lust of the powerful men who longed to claim her, to use her, perhaps to kill her… and whose aching woman’s heart led her across elegant ballrooms and raging oceans in search of the dashing rebel chieftain who had won her love forever. 

RAVEN by SHANA CARROL

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer)–not to be confused with Evelyn Rogers’ Raven— is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.

Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.

The Plot

Part One, Raven by Shana Carrol

The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.

Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.

The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.

raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Arrow Books edition (UK),
cover artist unknown

Part Two, Raven by Shana Carrol

Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.

Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).

Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.

In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.

As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.

A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.

Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.

Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.

Part Three, Raven by Shana Carrol

Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?

Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.

More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.

The Shana Carrol team created a frustrating read with Raven. The first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.

Raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Sheridan Books

My Opinion by Shana Carrol

I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.

I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.

He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a man who deserved her.

Final Analysis of Raven

Raven was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.

As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.

If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.

I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it.

3.49 Stars

stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stranger In My Arms by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #90
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

There are older romances I enjoy out of pure nostalgia. I know they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, I like them. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings is one of the rare flawless gems that gets better with every reread.

This romance set in France first caught my attention over thirty years ago. I love it as much today as I did back then.

Stranger In My Arms even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now defunct Romantic Times Magazine.

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.

Every character, no matter how minor–be he an innkeeper doting on guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning the deaths and losses caused by the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower–every individual in this novel is imbued with vivid sense of realism and depth.

Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from its whimsical opening:

If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.

The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging.

For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.

The Characters

Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow from Switzerland who is returning to Paris with her exiled relatives. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror. Although her late husband was an abusive beast, she still displays the optimism of youth.

Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a parvenu upstart.

At times, she is an imperfect heroine, too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined, and filled with joy.

Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel–then eventually–a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army, is the kind of hero I adore He’s blond, masculine, and handsome (but not pretty), a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country, and a man of unrelenting honor.

I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me the most.

Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. But, while his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.

The Plot

The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams.

Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night…

If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.

Adam and Charmiane’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France. They struggle to be together as family, politics, war, and personal vendettas take over their lives.

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

Stranger In My Arms is an exquisite treasure of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, sadness, and love. And so much more.

The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences, the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.

There is the brother vs. brother trope, fighting each other for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading. I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that’s one I can appreciate.

And if it’s between twin brothers, even more so. Here, this plot point is executed perfectly, for what we see is not always true.

There are even bodice ripper elements, so be warned if you’re not expecting that in a Harlequin Historical.

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

Yet, he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This man has reason to cry. Adam has no mommy issues, nor a woman who hurt him in the past.

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

What torments him is the awfulness of war: the meaningless deaths of his compatriots; the frozen and rotting flesh of his fellow soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow; the depths of depravity; and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for the loss of his soul.

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

As said, unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate.

Most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England. Rather they take place in during the Medieval Era or Renaissance. Or they are set in other times in nations like Spain, France, Russia, or the United States.

I enjoy Civil War romances in the American South and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. Those stories are so rare, and when they’re good, they’re excellent.

I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in this genre, and that’s why I read mostly older works.

Louisa Rawlings’ Stranger in My Arms is, for me, the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more on a deep, emotional level.

Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and, in doing so, learn to love each other anew.

This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books, and each one that I have read so far is wonderful. Stolen Spring is another of her fantastic books that I’ve reviewed. Ms. Rawlings, aka Ena Halliday, aka Sylvia Halliday, please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!

There is a sequel to Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.

Although Stranger in My Arms is a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

I adore Adam and Charmiane’s beautiful affirmation of love:

He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. “Now,” he said, “who am I?”

“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out.

“Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 5

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

He was every girl’s romantic dream: the handsome, brooding hero that Charmiane de Viollet had longed for, the man who would sweep her away from the endless tedium of life among the impoverished aristocrats who had lost their fortunes in the shadow of the guillotine. He was Adam Bouchard, Baron Montcalvo, a colonel in the cavalry, a favorite of Emperor Napoleon’s. In one reckless night of passion, Charmiane gave herself to him, body and soul.

But morning’s harsh light can dull even the brightest dream. When the night was over, would Charmiane wake to find …

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
Sweet Savage love

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Unknown, H. Tom Hall
Book Series: Ginny & Steve #1, Morgan & Challenger Saga #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 636
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Sweet Savage Love, The (Other) Mother of Romance

Where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre: the modern romance novel.

Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation. Sweet Savage Love showed readers that “good” women could have passionate sex with a hero outside of marriage and also have passionate sex with men other than the hero.

Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the primary setting for Sweet Savage Love.

This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.

sweet-savage-love-hall
Sweet Savage Love, Alternative Cover version, Avon, Tom Hall cover art

The Hero & The Heroine

Our heroine Virginia “Ginny” Brandon, is the half-French, half-American convent-raised daughter of a US Senator. She has fiery copper hair and flashing, slanted green eyes.

Ginny loves to dance like a gypsy, kicking her legs up in the air, her skirts swirling around her. You will hear this repeated constantly throughout the book.

Steve Morgan is this romance’s–ahem–hero. He is a darkly-tanned former Union soldier with deep blue eyes and black hair.

Rogers modeled him after Clint Eastwood, among others. I also got a Gregory Peck vibe from “Duel In the Sun” about Steve.

Imagine the most macho, virile man you possibly can. Picture ovulating women throwing themselves at his feet while low-T males shrink in self-awareness as that super-male confidently swaggers by.

That imaginary ideal isn’t fit to be a pimple sprouting hair on Steve Morgan’s muscular chest.

Steve is a soldier, a spy, a cowboy, and a Comanche ally. He’s a wealthy ranchero of mixed American and Spanish-Mexican descent. He is muy hombre, as we shall see.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

The Epic Plot

Steve the Stud Meets Ginny the Dancing Gypsy

The lovely Virginia Brandon returns to the United States from France, where she had been raised in a convent. Her widowed father has remarried a gorgeous woman young woman. Much, much younger.

Ginny’s stepmother, Sonya, is quite familiar with Steve “The Stud” Morgan. They shared a passionate night together, where Steve practically raped her. Of course, Sonya enjoyed his illicit forced seduction. There are few women who haven’t fallen prey to Steve’s animal magnetism.

A scandal ensues from Sonya and Steve’s dalliance and Steve finds himself potentially facing the death penalty. He agrees to act as a spy in exchange for his life. It’s suspected that Senator Brandon is up to traitorous acts.

Senator Brandon has interests in Mexico, particularly with the controlling government of Emperor Maximillian. Steve–who is against the French–is charged with accompanying the Brandons across the country. He plans to draw them into a trap with the help of some Bandidos. The plot takes off from here.

Steve kidnaps Ginny, and though she fights him like a hellion, she–like all women with a pulse–falls for his ultra studliness. Circumstances find Ginny and Steve caught in a compromising situation and they are forced to marry.

But do you think marriage will stop Esteban Alvarado (Steve’s Spanish name) from being el tigere that he is? No way. He’s kissing broads in front of his new wife and banging other women on the side.

sweet savage love bodice ripper
Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

Two Strong-Willed, Beautiful Idiots

The best part of the story is when Ginny and Steve are trekking through the Western wilderness. But Rogers doesn’t like her characters being happy. She throws everything imaginable at them.

The action takes us to Mexico, where Ginny and Steve are separated multiple times. There are lies, deceptions, and double-crosses. Mexican soldiers violate Ginny. A deranged doctor tortures Steve…and then some!

Ginny believes Steve is dead, so she becomes the willing mistress of a young señor.

When she finds out Steve is alive, she goes in search of him. Steve believes Ginny betrayed him, so he despises her, even as he lusts after her ravishing body. Lack of communication and big misunderstandings rule the day.

Oh, will these crazy kids just get over themselves and stay together forever?

My Opinion

Hablo Espanole?

One thing I recall about Sweet Savage Love is that much of the Spanish written was almost gibberish. This was a common occurrence in a lot of 1970s and 1980s romances, be they Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers. Rosemary Rogers’ good friend Shirlee Busbee had that same issue in her book While Passion Sleeps.

Spanish is, I think, the third most common language on Earth. It should have been easy for a former secretary like Rogers to get an English-to-Spanish dictionary and copy down a few words.

Ah, well, that’s a minor gripe.

rosemary rogers bodice ripper

Fast and Furious

The book is divided into sections and begins with a long prologue. It’s a hefty brick of a novel with words in tiny font. Thankfully, Rogers’ prose isn’t as purple and verbose as Woodiwiss’, so the pace is fast.

Still, Rogers has a penchant for repeating descriptions. Mentions of Ginny’s coppery hair and slanted green eyes and Steve’s lean, muscular figure seemed to be on every page. It got tedious.

Once the book got rolling, Sweet Savage Love was a gripping read. Rogers threw so much trauma at her characters; sometimes, I didn’t want to look!

This novel is not for the squeamish, sensitive reader. I first read this at 13, which I think was too young to truly appreciate the grand scope of this tawdry bodice ripper. Sweet Savage Love scared me. I couldn’t conceive heroes and heroines could act the way Ginny and Steve did.

It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I could handle that kind of behavior because my perspectives on romance novels had expanded to be open to new experiences.

sweet savage love rosemary rogers
Sweet Savage Love, Harlequin, 2014

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Love

Sweet Savage Love is a seminal piece of fiction, a lusty saga all lovers of old-school romance should read.

I wouldn’t rank it the most incredible bodice ripper ever, however. Christine Monson’s Stormfire, Teresa Denys’ The Flesh and the Devil and The Silver Devil, and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire are better written and engaging.

In my opinion, Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies is her best book, with more sensitive characterization and deeper themes. It was just more fun than Sweet Savage Love.

The protagonists were wishy-washy and emotional, despite being adults. (At least Steve was a full-grown adult. I think Ginny was 16 or 17 in the beginning.) Steve was a slut. Ginny was a Mary Sue, too beautiful and desirable.

The immature duo couldn’t decide if they wanted to be together or not. The only thing these two could agree on was that they liked banging.

Even so, I enjoyed this overall. Ginny and Steve were larger-than-life people in a story that was larger-than-life.

Sweet Savage Love is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a thrilling co-progenitor of the modern romance genre.

I’d rate this bodice ripper between 4 and 4.5 stars. Although it’s not without flaws, I’d say it does merit a high mark.

4.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis:

A tale of human emotion that lays bare the heights and depths of love, passion and desire in old and new worlds…as we follow Virginia Brandon, beautiful, impudent and innocent, from the glittering ballrooms of Paris to the sensuality of life in New Orleans to the splendor of intrigue-filled Mexico.

A tale of unending passion, never to be forgotten…the story of Virginia’s love for Steven Morgan, a love so powerful that she will risk anything for him…even her life.

SWEET SAVAGE LOVE by ROSEMARY ROGERS
hard to get mortimer

Category Romance Review: Hard To Get by Carole Mortimer

Synopsis:

He seemed completely immune to her
Rich girl Lara Schofield had never met a man she couldn’t instantly captivate, and in fact she’d made a hobby of collecting hearts and breaking them while she remained personally uninvolved.

Until she encountered Jordan Sinclair. He was devastating, everything a woman could ask for. And he was utterly indifferent to Lara.

But what Lara wanted, Lara got, and she was determined to have Jordan Sinclair. Even if it meant playing with the potent fire of his passion, and playing with Jordan was very dangerous indeed….

HARD TO GET by CAROLE MORTIMER

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

Oh boy, when I read “the heroine in pursuit plot” synopsis for this Harlequin Presents, was I ever excited to read it. Heroines who are determined to get their men are my favorite kinds! Alas, when the object of said pursuit is a mean arsehole, the chase isn’t worth it. Still, Hard to Get by Carole Mortimer was a wild, emotional whirlwind. With a more charismatic hero, I could have loved this as opposed to liking it.

As with so many Presents, this is an utter trainwreck, so you can’t look away.

The Characters

Lara Sinclair, our heroine, is beautiful, rich, vain, and spoiled–the very opposite of a heroine. She’s a daddy’s little girl type. Lara’s used to getting what she wants with ease. All the boys want her. She flirts and trifles with their hearts, never giving what she knows is so easy to get.

At a party, she sees the hero, Jordan Sinclair, and decides she wants him as another toy to play with. She approaches him with supreme confidence just to be stunned with brutal dismissal.

The game is on, and Lara is more determined than ever to have him.

The Plot

Lara chases after Jordan only to be rebuffed at every turn. Even so, Jordan shows up in her life at parties and spends time with her wealthy father getting all buddy-buddy.

Lara overplays her hand with an unhinged guy who then attempts to rape her and Jordan saves her. He shows contempt for Lara, blaming her for what almost occurred.

Then Jordan does a 180 and decides he’s the man for her. But now she doesn’t want anything to do with him, so Jordan convinces Daddy-dear that it would be in Lara’s best interest to do so.

This is all a rather contrived way to get there, but the pair do go out. Before anything serious can occur, Jordan goes off on a business trip. However, it seems as if Jordan is still playing hard to get, as Lara hears he’s back in town, yet he hasn’t contacted her.

So Lara goes on a revenge date with the guy who previously tried to rape her, only to have Jordan show up and find her flirting like a drunken Scarlett O’Hara at a barbeque. So Harlequin’s logic entails that Jordan picks her up like a white knight and brings her to his home, before violating her. Jordan is horrified to find she’s a virgin. Lara is horrified, too, of course! It was rape, no euphemistic forced seduction here.

Despite this, when Jordan proposes Lara accepts–to her father’s delight. As a wedding present, Lara’s company shares will be transferred to Jordan. Lara and Jordan get married and embark on a loveless distant union. Too late, Lara discovers her love for Jordan. She also realizes she’s pregnant. Wisely, she doesn’t tell her husband, because Jordan reveals that the reason he married her was for revenge. His revelations as to who and why he’s seeking vengeance stun Lara, and she agrees to a divorce.

But you know there’s got to be a happy ending, in some over-the-top melodramatic way! There is, and these two insane people will find their way together in an unhealthy romance that will last a lifetime.

Final Analysis of Hard To Get

Carole Mortimer can make me enjoy some really wacky plots. Unfortunately, Jordan was too cold, which I usually enjoy as a trait in a hero. But he was also very cruel. There was little time to understand his motivations until the big revelation. And then it was too little, too late. I never warmed up to him.

Lara, on the other hand, grew as a character from a spoilt rich princess to a young woman of self-regard and control. I liked her and wished she got a better man.

Hard to Get was a heck of a ride, but it felt disjointed and uneven at times. The tug and pull of their relationship could give a reader whiplash. The so-called hero deserved an anvil to the head.

Still, it hits so many crazy buttons, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

3.62 Stars

the honey is bitter

Category Romance Review: The Honey Is Bitter by Violet Winspear

category romance
The Honey Is Bitter by Violet Winspear
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1967
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #6
Book Series: Stephanos #1
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Vintage Romance
Pages: 190
Format: Paperback, eBook, Hardcover
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Honey Is Bitter by Violet Winspear

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Along with Anne Mather and Anne Hampson, Violet Winspear was one of the three original authors for the Harlequin Presents line when it launched in 1973. Her bestseller, The Honey is Bitter, was first published in 1967 by Mills and Boon.

The books had about 30 reprintings under Harlequin and the first in her Stephanos series.

the honey is bitter violet winspear
Mills & Boon, 1967 edition

The Plot

Part One of The Honey Is Bitter

The Honey Is Bitter features a Greek hero named Paul. I swear, these classic Presents had about 5 or 6 names for heroes! Paul, Dominic, Nick/Nico, Alex, and Andre/Andreas. Plus, the plots were nonsensical, with an intimidating male running roughshod over the heroine, as occurs here.

This book’s Paul is a Greek tycoon who blackmails Domini into marriage. How? By holding over her head that her brother embezzled funds from Paul’s company.

Why does he want a young British girl like Domini? Because Paul is Greek, and his pride demands vengeance this way! Although she is outraged by Paul’s demands, Domini acquiesces fairly easily. Nor does she turn to anyone for help.

On their wedding night, Domini runs out into the darkness and is swept into the sea. Whether that was a genuine attempt to end her life is left up to the reader. Soon, after a bit of coaxing, Domini falls into Paul’s arms and into his bed.

And that’s the end of chapter one! Quite a lot of action. With more drama to come.

the honey is bitter violet winspear
Mills & Boon 1974 Edition

Part Two of The Honey Is Bitter

Paul is much older, and one wonders what–besides the obvious–he sees in Domini.

Domini is hard to like because she’s so caustic, so… bitter. It’s understandable, though. No woman wants to be forced into marriage with a handsome, sensual, magnetic, powerful, wealthy man who desires her above all women. (Except as an escapist fantasy, naturally. 😉)

Paul whisks Domini to his Grecian villa. Despite her discontent, Domini cannot deny Paul’s allure. While she swaps verbal barbs with him during the day, they communicate on a carnal level at night.

Then the man Domini had fancied herself in love with comes back into her life, demanding she leaves Paul. Tragedy strikes. Will Domini leave Paul forever? Or is it too late and her heart already his?

the honey is bitter
The Honey Is Bitter, Violet Winspear, Harlequin, 1984 re-issue

Final Analysis of The Honey Is Bitter

For an older Presents, The Honey Is Bitter was deeply sensual even though the love scenes were behind closed doors. Paul employs forced seduction with Domini, so readers who dislike that trope are warned.

This vintage romance stars a cruel hero and prickly heroine. Paul is inscrutable yet domineering; Domini is determined yet ill-tempered. Together, they make a passionate pairing.

This was a fascinating tale that had me hooked from the first. But then I have a soft spot for dark, somewhat offensive romances, especially with solid writing. Violet Winspear provides just that.

I can see why The Honey Is Bitter was a Harlequin sensation in its day.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

“Keep your love. Did I ever ask for it?”

Paul’s voice rang out. His face was a taut sculpture, chiseled out of stone-as she felt certain his heart was.

“No,” Domini threw at him, “but you’re not quite so inhuman as to enjoy for very long the companionship of a wife who hates you!”

THE HONEY IS BITTER by VIOLET WINSPEAR
the silver devil teresa denys

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

historical romance review
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Renaissance Era Romance
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.

A Legendary Romance

Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.

The Silver Devil is out-of-print, a hard paperback to find. And if you do, it will cost you quite a penny! On e-bay, the only one I currently see available costs $159. That’s relatively cheap compared to the other listings that are upwards of a thousand dollars.

I purchased my edition eleven years ago for $12. At the time, I thought that was too much!

There’s a good reason this book is highly prized.

The Silver Devil captivated me with its stunning characterization and intense, passionate tone. The enclosed world of 380 pages (my Futura Publications Ltd/Troubador version) made me truly believe that in the imaginary Dukedom of Cabria, there lived a proud Duke so handsome and omnipotent that with a snap of his fingers, he was swiftly provided with whatever he desired.

Including one lovely peasant girl named Felicia.

the silver devil
The Silver Devil, Troubador Books, UK edition

The Set-Up

“He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.”

THE SILVER DEVIL

It is a hot summer in the year 1604 in Fidena, a fictional town in the fictional province of Cabria, set just north of Naples. Felicia Guardi is the sister of an innkeeper who’s just gotten married. Her sister-in-law, Celia, is a greedy and harsh taskmistress. Felicia’s half-brother, Antonio, is not much better, as he bears no love for the girl with whom he only shares a mother.

For Felicia was not the child of their mother’s husband. Her actual father spent one brief night at the inn, sharing a fleeting moment of passion with her mamma.

Adding to the gothic allure of this novel is the narration. The story is told from Felicia’s first-person perspective, appropriate for such a macabre tale of lust and love. She describes the overwhelming heat and decay of Fidena during a hot summer when the plague that runs through town.

Like a princess out of a fairy tale, Felicia is forced to slave away her days until a handsome prince falls in love with her and takes her to his castle home.

The Villainous Hero: The Silver Devil

One day Felicia stands by the window and is seen by Duke Domenico, a white-blond-haired, black-eyed sensualist of a tyrant. His desire for her is powerful and instantaneous. The Duke demands to have her, and with a snap of his fingers, she is made his.

Felicia does not want to go willingly. Yet what is she, an illegitimate peasant, to do? In vain, she resists. Felicia’s brother and sister-in-law drug her to surrender to the devil’s demands.

Although Felicia is attracted to this magnetic demi-god, she displays a strong will, refusing his seduction despite how futile.

Domenico treats her as a jealously-guarded treasure. Felicia’s innate strength demands no less than a queen’s respect.

The Story

Domenico’s ardor for Felicia becomes a raging obsession. He is monstrous in his possessiveness. In one unforgettable scene, Felicia smiles at a handsome youth. Enraged, Domenico has the boy brutally tortured to death.

As they travel through the hot, dusty lands, a retinue of servants and sycophants escort Domenico and Felicia. Former mistresses accompany Domenico, vying fruitlessly for his attention. He humiliates them callously when they seek his favor.

The Silver Devil was written in 1978 and, for its time, took a daring risk with the lead male character. The hero is/was bisexual. Domenico had a past affair with Pierro, a childhood friend who now is one of his courtiers. He only has disdain for Pierro, who pathetically apes Domenico’s looks and style.

Once Domenico’s affection dies out, only contempt remains. Domenico’s eyes and heart belong to his beloved Felicia alone.

I won’t spoil what evil deeds he has in store for his hangers-on. Suffice it enough to say he does his admirers wrong. He is ruthless in his brutality.

A Difficult to Believe HEA

As a result, it’s no surprise when the people turn against Domenico.

The beautiful Prince falls from grace. Felicia alone stands by his side, aiding him in his quest to regain power. Domenico is humbled several times over while Felicia remains at his side. Felicia proves she is more than an object of desire. She has grit and fortitude where others fail. With her by his side, Domenica will rise to power once more.

The novel culminates with Domenico declaring his love in a surprisingly vulnerable demonstration of emotion.

“I knew that love would not turn the silver devil into an angel. He would remain what he was–subtle yet childish, unfeeling yet passionate, lost irretrievably to everything but his own desire. But he loved me–and I loved him, now and forever.

THE SILVER DEVIL

My Opinion

The writing in The Silver Devil is gripping. However, it’s not a sweet tale that leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Reading this like a simple love story doesn’t work. It’s too dark, too gothic, and too gruesome for me to call it one.

It is a fascinating character study of an unhinged, narcissistic megalomaniac and his female object of jealous obsession.

I cannot give this book five stars because it fails on one singular level. The Silver Devil is fabulous historical fiction. It’s a monumental piece of psychological analysis. But is it a romance? Only if I engage in a suspension of all disbelief.

Final Analysis of The Silver Devil

SPOILER ⚠

Although Domenico is the absolute ruler of a wealthy Duchy, he is not a typical “Alpha male.” Alphas are devoted to their mates, but they are also leaders who command respect. Domenico struggles spectacularly at this. His Dukedom is overtaken, and he must maneuver his way back into power. This is done not by coalescing allies who will eagerly follow his lead. He must attain this through deception, posing as a lowly peasant.

He is feared by others but not loved. Contrary to Machiavelli’s perspective, fear alone is not enough to keep Domenico secure.

In the last pages of The Silver Devil, Felicia gives birth to a son, the heir to Cabria. The novel concludes on a gloriously positive note.

Even so, I had doubts about the happy finale. Domenico is a mad despot. I could see the inhabitants of Cabria taking him out, Mussolini-style. Lord knows what would happen to Felicia and their son! My imagination goes wild, and it’s never a good end.

For that, it’s best to close the book and leave this story in its final moment of ultimate bliss.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

Post Script: Read The Silver Devil For Free Online

I don’t usually post links for free books on the internet unless it’s to borrow from Open Library. However, the author has been deceased for more than thirty years, with no heirs. In light of that, I have linked to several sources where you can read the free PDF or internet version of The Silver Devil at no cost.


Synopsis

He was cold. He was cruel. A ruthless sensualist riding headlong to hell. He was the Silver Devil – Domenico, Duke of Cabria.

Felicia was the illegitimate sister of a tavern-keeper. She felt nothing but terror when they told her that she had been chosen as the Duke’s next mistress, and when they took her, decked in silks and jewels to the Silver Devil’s bed…

THE SILVER DEVIL BY TERESA DENYS
texas conquest

Historical Romance Review: Texas Conquest by Caroline Bourne

Texas Conquest, Caroline Bourne, Zebra, 1988, Robert Sabin cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

This review is of Texas Conquest by Caroline Bourne. This historical romance is a Zebra Lovegram, published in 1988.

The Plot

Part II

The book starts in London, England, in 1810. Elsa Palmer is searching for her sister, Claretta, who became a prostitute after the death of her husband. He was a man their father didn’t approve of. Elsa convinces Claretta to travel to America with her and Elsa’s husband, William.

Fast forward 22 years. In Texas, on the Brazos River lives Mariah Palmer, 22, Elsa and William’s daughter and the heroine of the book. Mariah lives with Elsa (William has now passed away) and a younger brother, Jessie, who is away but coming home.

Mariah is a steadfast supporter of Texas independence from Mexico, which will place her squarely at odds with her new neighbor, Matthew Cade, the book’s hero. Even though he is an American, Matthew is the right-hand man for General Antonio Lopez y Santa Anna. Santa Anna has ordered Matthew to buy the home of Mariah’s neighbor, Francisco Gomez. He also ordered him to buy the Palmer land and push them out. Naturally, Mariah plans to put a stop to that.

Santa Anna has other plans for Mariah as well. He orders her brought to Mexico to become his latest mistress. Matthew escorts her to Mexico, and on the trip, they become lovers.

Part I

Mariah and Matthew return to Texas and soon travel to New York, where Elsa is having surgery (Elsa is blind from an illness she contracted years ago). While in New York, Mariah attends a party at West Point and is shocked to see Matthew there with another woman. They argue, and Matthew rapes Mariah. Further tragedy follows when Elsa passes away.

Despite these tragedies, Mariah and Matthew marry. She later finds out she is pregnant and discovers family secrets that Elsa kept before her passing. Happiness and tragedy follow as Mariah and Matthew become parents to a daughter, Laureli (pronounced Lorelei). However, another death occurs as Jessie is killed at the Alamo. Or so they think, as Jessie returns alive.

By the end of the book, all secrets are revealed, Mariah and Matthew have their Happily Ever After, and 5-year-old Laureli sings of future love. Will she find it? You’ll have to read the sequel to Texas Conquest, Texas Fire to find out.

Upside

Ms. Bourne is clearly a soap opera fan as she has about ten storylines going in this book, and she does a decent job keeping them going.

Downside

That, however, is also one of the issues I have with Texas Conquest. Most of the storylines appear to be filler to reach a page count (the book is 508 pages), and most of the storylines are unfinished and abandoned.

Mariah and Matthew make for an okay hero and heroine. Mariah is supposed to be a fiery personality, but that is rarely shown. Once Matthew rapes Mariah, he is dead to me. No matter how much Ms. Bourne tries to rehabilitate him–and she does–there is no redemption for a rapist hero. Ms. Bourne never made me care about Mariah, Matthew, or any other character in the book.

Sex

Mariah and Matthew have several love scenes. The scenes are neither graphic, exciting nor erotic.

Violence

There is violence at the Alamo, and Santa Anna threatens to whip Mariah after discovering that she and Matthew are lovers. Most of the violence is “off-screen.”

Bottom Line

Texas Conquest is a frustrating book because there are good elements, but Ms. Bourne doesn’t put them together. Hopefully, she can address these issues in future books.