Tag: review

Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

Moonstruck madness

Mild Spoilers 😉

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Moonstruck Madness is old school in a clichéd, but still an oh-so-perfect way. For the very reasons some reviewers dislike this book, I adore it. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, her best book.

The Characters

The heroine, Lady Sabrina Verrick watches on as the Scots lose at the bloody Battle of Culloden Moor. The eldest daughter of a deceased Scotswoman, and an itinerant English Marquess, she and her family are without resources. As she’s responsible for her two younger siblings, she packs them off to England to their absent father’s run-down estate. Her father is more interested in his young Italian bride than being responsible for his children. It’s up to Sabrina to figure a way to support her family.

The hero is His Grace, the golden-haired Lucien Dominick, Duke of Camareigh. When we first see him, he’s challenged to a duel by a young hothead. At dawn, he makes quick work of his opponent, displaying his sword-fighting talents.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain”

Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright

To see a Stranger
To see a Stranger
To See a Stranger, Kate Cartwright, Magnum Books, 1976, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-86

Spoiler-free review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Good novel, poor romance

In a way, Kate Cartwright’s To See a Stranger is a fine novel. It’s well-written. It ticks most of the boxes. But it still disappointed me. Why? Because IMHO if a story is labeled a romance, there should be plenty of romance in it. Here there’s hardly any. So I almost didn’t write a review for this blog. But my definition of romance fiction isn’t everyone’s, so here goes.

First, the publishing background, which is sketchy. The paperback I read was issued by Magnum Books, an imprint of Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp., both in New York. At least that’s what’s listed on the copyright page; some other titles in the series list Prestige Books as the publisher.

But there’s no publication date. Since this same page says the book is copyright 1976 by IPC Magazines, Ltd., To See a Stranger must have been originally published as part of the Woman’s Weekly Library series in the UK. My guess is the Magnum reprint was issued a year or two later.... Read more “Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright”

Historical Romance Review: Tangled Web by Janice Bennett

Tangled Web
Tangled Web, Janice Bennett, Zebra, 1988, cover artist TBD

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This review is of Tangled Web a Zebra Regency romance by Janice Bennett.

The story:

At the beginning of the book, Miss Celia Marcombe, the heroine, is informed by her grandfather, Roderick, that he has arranged a marriage between Celia and his godson, Lord Trevor Ryde, the hero of Tangled Web. Suffice it to say, Celia is less than thrilled with this prospect and tries to get out of it by claiming she already is betrothed to her brother’s best friend, Jonathon Edelston. Celia is even less enthused about the impending nuptials when she visits Trevor’s home and realizes the state of dishabille it’s in.

Despite that disappointment, Celia does begin to develop a romantic tendre for Trevor, which is somewhat broken when she discovers he’s keeping a woman at his home. (The woman in question–Therese de Bourgerre–later becomes the heroine of another book, An Intriguing Desire by Ms. Bennett.) The reasons Trevor is keeping Mademoiselle de Bourgerre in London later come to light, leading to intrigue and danger. Eventually, most of the mysteries are solved, Celia and Trevor realize they love each other, Jonathon finds his true love–Celia’s companion Elizabeth–and the two couples have their Happily Ever After.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tangled Web by Janice Bennett”

Category Romance Review: Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning

Yesterday's Love
Yesterday's Love
Yesterday’s Love, Marsha Manning, Magnum Books, 1969, cover artist unknown

#4286 Magnum Books Easy Eye

Spoiler-free review 🙂

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Magnum Books

Yesterday’s Love is a moving romance with a rather mysterious background. It’s part of the Magnum Books imprint of Prestige Books, Inc., a small New York paperback publisher active during the mid to late 1970s. The novel was originally published as a hardcover by Mills & Boon in 1969, under the title Yesterday’s Lover. But the copyright page of this edition doesn’t say when it was published. Nor can I find this info anywhere else.

The author, Marsha Manning, was a pen name of Hettie Grimstead. Or was Hettie Grimstead a pen name of Marsha Manning? If you know, drop me a line.

An Impossible Situation

Here’s the setup. Kerry Talbot, a London office worker for a large corporation, is in love with Philip Ingram, her boss. And he’s in love with her. The situation presents an obvious problem. But wait, there’s more. He’s married. An issue that troubles her far more than him.

What other people think of her doesn’t matter to Kerry, but what she thinks of herself does.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning”

Category Romance Review: Man in Control by Alice Morgan

Man in Control
Man in Control, Alice Morgan, Dell, 1984, cover artist unknown

Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #35

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you watch Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, that pretty much sums up the plot of this category romance. Man in Control by Alice Morgan features a unique heroine, an avaricious young woman who openly acknowledges that she’s looking to settle down with a man, not for love but money. This Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme wasn’t fabulous or anything (few of them really were). However, the book was quirky enough to hold my interest, even if it could have been shortened by 100 pages.

The Plot

Samantha Thatcher has come to San Francisco to look for a rich sugar daddy to sink her red claws into. And why shouldn’t she? She’s young, beautiful, and poor, so a girl ought to know what’s in her best interest. Her aunt has lined up several prospective candidates for Sam to date.

On her way to her aunt’s, she gets a flat tire. A handsome red-haired trucker named Steele pulls over to fix her flat. He’s a charming fellow who takes an immediate interest in Sam. When he finds out why she’s is in town, he’s determined to show her that there’s more to a husband than what’s in his pants–er, wallet.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Man in Control by Alice Morgan”

Historical Romance Review: The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie

the treacherous heart
the treacherous heart
The Treacherous Heart, Angela Alexie, Fawcett, 1980, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 1/2 Star

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Don’t Tell Me You’ve Heard This One Before!

The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie is a tale of a Gaelic, black-haired, fiery-spirited lass forced by circumstances to become a thief to provide for her family, only to be thwarted by an arrogant, scar-faced, golden-haired Duke…

Hmm. Where have I heard this plot before? Oh yes, Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness! Sadly, that’s where the similarities end. If you remove all the intelligent writing, the interesting side characters, and the sexual chemistry between the leads from McBain’s book, we have this dull, meandering read. Except for Jennifer Blake, I’ve come to find that Fawcett-published romances were rarely ever excellent, and this dud is another to put in the slush pile.

The Plot

One day in Lancashire, England, some drunken soldiers looking for excitement come upon the house of the Avory family. They ransack the home, kill the dog, the Irish-born widow Lady Delilah, and her young son before raping the teenaged daughter. The eldest sister, and our heroine, Raven, was not in residence while this occurred, arriving in time to witness the aftermath of her home’s destruction.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie”

Historical Romance Review: Texas Storm by Deana James

brown and white stallions running in a field
Texas Storm, Deana James, Zebra 1986, Pino cover art

SPOLIER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Plot

It’s the mid-1830’s and Scottish immigrant Reiver MacPherson has been granted lands by the new Texas government. The dilapidated property he acquired belonged to an old Spanish family, but the place is now abandoned. Or at least Reiver thinks it is, because to his surprise, there he finds an emaciated young wisp of a girl, Mercedes-Maria, whose family once owned the lands but has fled to Mexico, leaving her behind. So begins Deana James’ Texas Storm.

Mercedes is a bit of a wild child, and at first, Reiver has no patience for her. She insists the land is hers; he claims it’s is. The two butt heads but eventually agree to work together. Slowly, a romance unfolds as the pair get to know one another—sexual attraction forms. With James’ trademark earthy sensuality describing the passages, their passion results in vivid lovemaking sessions.

Mercedes & Reiver get married more out of convenience than love. However, their love grows as they experience adventure after adventure.

They tame wild horses across the Llano Estacado (The Staked Plains) & amass a substantial sum of money, turning Reiver into a respected patron.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Storm by Deana James”

Category Romance Review: To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton (aka Mary Cummins)

to cherish my beloved
cherishmybeloved2
To Cherish My Beloved, Dorothy Heaton, Magnum Books, 1977, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-81

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A Promise Not Delivered

I’m very fond of the line of Magnum romances published during the seventies. Someone was carefully curating the best products of the big British publishers for reprinting in the US. Often the result was a winner. But often isn’t always.

First published in 1976 by IPC Magazines Ltd. in the Women’s Weekly Library series, To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton in its 1977 Magnum reprint caught my eye with an intriguing blurb and a gorgeous emo clinch cover; wish I knew who created it. The first few chapters presented a fascinating situation. I just had to find out what happened next!

A lot of stuff did, but overall the story failed to live up to its early promise. So I must be frank: this book is a dud.

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

Candice Errinmore, assistant to an airport manager on the south coast of England, is engaged to Clive Benley. But not for long. He’s a mercurial, impulsive, self-centered drama king.... Read more “Category Romance Review: To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton (aka Mary Cummins)”

Historical Romance Review: Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri

seajewel
Sea Jewel, Penelope Neri, Zebra, 1986, Pino cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Five-Star Book, Albeit a Rating I Give Reluctantly

After deliberation, I decided to give Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri five stars, although I do so with some high degree of reluctance. The explanation why follows.

The Story: Part One

This Zebra Lovegram begins with the hero of the book, Freya Jorgenson, being born. Her father, Thorfast, is a warring Viking who wanted a son. He orders his man, Sven, to kill Freya. Sven, however, being a kind soul, chooses not to and, with the help of a captured English slave, raises Freya as his daughter.

Earlier, Sven did a similar thing. Years earlier, when Thorfast and his men went a-Viking–i.e., murdering, pillaging, and raping–they sacked an English village, killing all the males and raping the females. One of the women, Wilone, wife of the head of the earldom whom Thorfast killed, offered herself as a sexual slave to Thorfast in exchange for sparing her life and the life of her unborn child. Thorfast raped Wilone and ordered Sven to kill her and her child, which he did not do.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri”

Category Romance Review: Out of the Shadows by Stella March

Out of the shadows
Out of the Shadows, Stella March, Sapphire, 1982, cover artist unknown

(Note: This review was written by the newest member of our Sweet Savage Flame family, Mary Anne! We’re delighted to welcome her aboard as she has so much valuable information and opinions to share with us. Mary Anne is a reader, reviewer, and writer. Read more about her on our About page.)

Sapphire Romance

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sapphire Romances

Sapphire Romances was a line of American paperback romances, mostly contemporary, issued by RCA Direct Marketing in 1982. I’m pretty sure they were available only through mail order; there’s no price on the covers. The books were reprints of British originals and The Hamlyn Publishing Group often appears on the copyright page. The venture lasted only a little while, but produced some remarkable reading.

Out of the Shadows by Stella March was first published in 1967 and has been reprinted several times. This Sapphire edition was published in 1982.

The Plot

Diana Farrington, a young woman living with her family in the English countryside, gets the shock of her life when her parents reveal something they should’ve told her much earlier: she was adopted.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Out of the Shadows by Stella March”

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

“Tanya, ya slut!”

ONCE A PRINCESS

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Cover

Once a Princess was not one of my favorites by Johanna Lindsey. I’d put this in the unremarkable category with books like Glorious Angel and Tender is the Storm. Not her worst, by any means, but not her best either.

Perhaps it had to do with the book’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine. So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back and I preferred an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up. And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?

The Plot

The plot about the search for a secret princess from a fictional country was all right. It was the main characters that made this one almost unbearable.

It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: Dakota Dreams by Constance O’Banyon

Dakota Dreams
Dakota Dreams, Constance O’Banyon, Zebra, 1988, Pino cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review is of Dakota Dreams, a standalone Zebra Lovegram romance by Constance O’Banyon.

The Setup:

The book starts on November 1, 1833. On this day, in a blizzard, two lives will end and one will begin. The lives that end are those of Lady Cillia Remington and her husband, Lord Holden Remington, ninth Marquess of Weatherford. The life that begins is that of their son (Cillia gives birth to her son with the help of Two Moons, an Arapaho war chief. Before she dies, she asks Two Moons to raise her son). Two Moons names the child Dakota, and Two Moons and his wife raise Dakota alongside their biological son, Black Otter.

At first, the two boys are friends and brothers, but as they grow to adulthood, their relationship becomes strained, mostly from Black Otter’s end of the world. After Two Moons’ death, Dakota, now 23 and the hero of the book, leaves to go to England. (Two Moons asked Daktoa to do so before he passed for two reasons. One, for Dakota to truly embrace his heritage, and two, because he feared what Black Otter would do to Dakota).... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Dakota Dreams by Constance O’Banyon”

Historical Romance Review: Sapphire by Patricia Matthews

Sapphire, Patricia Matthews, Harlequin, 1989, Max Ginsburg cover art

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In Patricia Matthews’ late-Victorian era set Sapphire, treasure hunting and separated lovers are the two driving plot points of this 1989 historical romance.

The Plot

Down on her luck, when Englishwoman Regina Paxton hears tales of treasure–jewels–in far-away India, she is immediately intrigued. She forms a strange association with burly, bearded Irishman Brian MacBride. Together, the two travel to India in search of treasure. Their journey is rough and arduous. But together, they make it. And what’s more, they actually find the jewels they were searching for.

Of course, the two bond in various ways, enjoying a quick romantic affair.

Regina and Brian separate, as Brian has never been the settling done type. Unfortunately, for Regina, she’s with a child, and settling down is exactly what she needs to do. So in comes along old what’s his name, Will, a nice, unassuming man, who Regina convinces herself will do. She marries him, all the while knowing she’s pregnant with Brian’s child. Indeed, it’s no surprise to her when her son is born with a red shock of hair.

Then Brian returns to Regina’s world, and the old feelings come rushing back.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sapphire by Patricia Matthews”

Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber

Country Bride, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance # 3059

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Debbie Macomber’s Country Bride was my introduction to this hugely popular author. I’m ashamed to admit that although I’ve read a handful of her Harlequins, I had no idea that Debbie Macomber was such a commercial hit with her small-town romances. Up until recently, I had no clue that she’s got a whopping 200 million books in print and has written several movies for the Hallmark channel.

Country Bride was released in 1990, and I recall really loving it. Although this book maintains a largely positive rating overall, I was surprised that the top Amazon and Goodreads reviews were negative, blaming the heroine for being too self-centered or the hero for being too overbearing. I thought nostalgia might have colored my opinion of this book, but after a recent re-read, my feelings on Country Bride remain unchanged; I love this little series romance, and a big reason was the hero, Luke.

The Plot

Country Bride is the sequel to Macomber’s A Little Bit Country, and I read the books in reverse order, which negatively affected my opinion of the first book in the series.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber”

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Prairie Passion by Rosanne Bittner

Sweet Prairie Passion, F. Rosanne Bittner, Zebra, 1983, cover artist TBD

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This review is of Sweet Prairie Passion, book #1 in the “Savage Destiny” series by Rosanne Bittner.

The Story:

In 1845, a wagon train is headed from Tennessee west to Oregon. Among those on the train is Jason Trent, a widower, and his three children: daughters LeeAnn, 17, Abigail (Abbie), 15, the heroine of the book and the series, and son Jeremy, 7. The Trent family is leaving Tennessee because the memories of Jason’s late wife are too strong. Later, they meet up with two men who are hired to scout and lead the train, one of whom is “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, 25, the hero of the book and the series. The fact that Zeke is half-white and half-Cheyenne doesn’t sit well with everyone on the train, and Zeke faces bigotry from some of the train’s denizens, including some with less than savory reputations.

As the book continues, Abigail and Zeke fall in love, but their love is threatened by his past, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, scandal and tragedy. However, even knowing that the Cheyenne Indians–and the Indian people in general–would be facing tremendous hardship, sorrow and tragedy, Zeke and Abbie fall in love and vow to be together.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sweet Prairie Passion by Rosanne Bittner”

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

blood red roses front

“[At worst] yon Welshman has one dangling nut.”

BLOOD RED ROSES

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Blood Red Roses is understandably a difficult book for some to enjoy. It could be nostalgia goggles on this one for me, plus a love for the glorious red stepback cover. Or it could be the vivid Middle Ages setting, my favorite time period. Or it could be that this book is really a wonderfully written piece of romantic fiction, just styled in a way that appeals to a niche audience. I read this Medieval romance by Katherine Deauxville (Maggie Davis) twice: once in middle school and then years later in high school, and was swept away in the story both times.

The Plot

Alwyn is practically ancient for her time period at nearly 28 to be unmarried. She’s a seemingly wild Welsh woman forced to be given a prize in marriage to the Norman knight, Fulk de Joburg, as she’s heiress to her dead father’s lands. They spend a passionate night together before Fulk is off again to fight for King William.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville”

Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

The Golden Sovereigns, Jocelyn Carew, Avon, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

“There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”

THE GOLDEN SOVEREIGNS

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s very difficult to rate or categorize as it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is an absolutely skillful writer to make me enjoy a book where the heroine, Carmody, doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 of this 404-page epic. This is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale, however, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end; he’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.

The Plot

Our story begins in late 17th century England. Carmody Petrie is in love with Waldo, who’s a no-good rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but she knows better than to give in to his caresses despite her body’s urges:

“A new stirring, of springs moving deep inside her, a well of emotion she had never dreamed of had been uncovered.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew”

Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer

Nelsons Brand
Nelson’s Brand, Diana Palmer, Silhouette, 1991, cover artist unknown

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Nelson’s Brand was my first and, so far, only foray into Diana Palmer’s little corner of Romancelandia. Palmer has got a bit of a reputation in the genre as an author of ultra-macho, hairy-chested heroes and virginal, too-stupid-to-live heroines.

I read this one back when I subscribed to the Silhouette Desire line. They used to run a Man of the Month theme and Nelson’s Brand was that month’s pick (January 1991). I recall never being too impressed with the Desire editors’ choices, and this was one of those books that failed to impress. The Desire staff really dropped the ball by not picking Lass Small’s Four Dollars and Fifty-One Cents over this one.

The Plot

In Nelson’s Brand Allison Hathoway is new in town. She’s got a tragic back story where her missionary parents were killed in South America. Her friend, Winnie, treats her with kid-gloves as, if she’s so delicate she might break at the slightest touch.

Gene Nelson is Winnie’s fiance’s brother. Gene and his brother, Dwight, run their family ranch together, although lately, Gene hasn’t been tending much to his responsibilities.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer”

Historical Romance Review: Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan

Kathleen’s Surrender, Nancy Henderson Ryan, Zebra, 1983, Walter Popp cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This review is based on the Zebra print version of the book published back in 1983. Kathleen’s Surrender by Nancy Henderson Ryan–known better these days as Nan Ryan–is without question one of the best, most emotional romance novels I’ve ever read.

The Plot:

As the book opens, we meet the Beauregard family of Natchez-on-the-Hill, Mississippi. Patriarch Louis Antoine, Matriarch Abigail Howard Beauregard, and the heroine of the book, their only child, daughter Kathleen Diana Beauregard. At the start, Kathleen is a starry-eyed 15 year old who loves her Southern Belle life. She soon meets a handsome, wealthy man named Dawson Blakely and falls quickly and fully in love with him. They fall in love and want to get married.

However, Louis is vehemently against their relationship, although he and Abigail are nice to Dawson. Louis’ objection: Dawson’s ancestry isn’t as blue-blooded as the Beauregards’ is; Dawson’s ancestors are rather notorious people. Louis tells Dawson they can’t marry, and Dawson loves Kathleen enough to let her go without telling her that her father is the one who’s trying to keep them apart.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan”

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Was this tepid, dull romance actually penned by Johanna Lindsey? The Heir was the first book that I noticed a weird change in her writing. Previously, if there was a Lindsey I didn’t like, it was due to a dull plot or excessive fighting between the leads. In this one, there is friendship for sure, but romantic isn’t what I’d call the relationship between Duncan and Sabrina.

The Plot: Friends to Lovers

Duncan, a Highland Scot, is the new heir to be an English Marquess. Everyone is eager to meet this new laird, er lord, especially the young ladies in town. Sabrina has no designs on Duncan; she’s plump, plain, orphaned, and not anyone’s ideal candidate for a wife. Certainly not for an heir to a Marquessate.

Then there’s the manipulative, beautiful Ophelia, who desperately wants Duncan’s title.

Slowly, painfully slowly, Sabrina and Duncan’s relationship turns physical, and one night they make love. But Ophelia’s scheming makes it appear as if Duncan has ruined her, so the red-haired idiot decides to do the honorable thing: marry Ophelia. Duncan is too young and he flounders in areas where a more mature man might have acted differently.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey”