A Violation, a full-length novel by category author Charlotte Lamb, isn’t a straightforward romance, somewhere more between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Like so many of her works, the major themes are the philosophy of love and what are the defined roles of being a man and a woman, especially when it comes to amorous relationships.
In general, I think she was better restrained by the limitations of category romance as at times here she veers off into navel-gazing. Nevertheless, A Violation was a satisfactory read, not as good as the similarly-themed Stranger in the Night, but much better than a few of Lamb’s other Mills and Boon/ Harlequins that also dealt with sexual assault (I am looking at you Dark Fever).
Rape, especially a violent rape by a stranger who debases the heroine, leaving her life in tatters, isn’t the most comfortable backstory for a romance. As stated, though, this isn’t strictly a romance novel, so if you’re looking for more than a “Happy For Now” ending, you might be disappointed.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb”
Chance the Winds of Fortune A Disappointing Sequel
Chance the Winds of Fortune is the sequel to Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness, a romance about a gender-bending highwayman (girl) who falls for an arrogant, scarred Duke, notorious for his dueling skills. I LOVED Moonstruck Madness… The follow-ups to that wonderful book about their daughter, Rhea Claire, Chance the Winds of Fortune & Dark Before the Rising Sun, though…uggh.
Please forgive my bluntness. They’re too long, boring, and stink. Even McBain’s tepid first outing, Devil’s Desire, was better than these.
The two sequels books combine to over 1000 pages, telling the tale of a vanilla-bland daughter of the protagonists of a much more compelling story. Perhaps if McBain had combined both novels into one 700 page epic, I would have found more enjoyment out of the romance.
The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.... Read more “Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale”
The heroine of Lisa Kleypas‘ Then Came You was, at the time of the book’s initial release, a unique female protagonist. Today, Romancelandia is replete with hoydenish, unmarried non-virgins who thumb their nose at society’s rules. Back in 1993, the wild Lily Lawson was most unusual for a historical romance heroine.
The novel begins with Lily aboard a fancy sea vessel for a daytime event that bores her senseless. She allows her hat to fly off into the waters of the Thames in an attempt to prod her male admirers into fetching it for her. The reserved Lord Alex Raiford looks on, disgusted by her antics.
Lily is on the fringes of polite society as she is estranged from her family for her shocking behavior. Many years ago, she was involved in a love affair with an Italian gentleman who turned out to be a cad. Now, she takes pleasure in shocking the ton. Upon hearing that her dear sister cannot marry the man she loves, “Lawless” Lily Lawson–as she is called–is determined to break her sister’s engagement with the stuffed-shirt Lord Raiford.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas”
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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”
What can I say about Carole Mortimer’s Trust in Tomorrow (originally published as Cherish Tomorrow in the US & Canada)? Sadly, that I wasn’t really feeling this one. The romance aspect of the book was fine, kind of adorable, actually, with a very young heroine, Chelsea, in pursuit of the much older hero, Lucas. She knows she wants her man and is willing to fight for him. I really wish Chelsea and Lucas could have had a better plot to go along with their romance. The romance was fine, but it was the story that had me going, huh?
Chelsea’s mother has just suddenly died, and since her father is a famous tv celebrity, he dispatches her from California to England to get away from the press. He sends her to stay with Lucas, an old family friend Chelsea hasn’t known since she was 12 and he was 27 when she had a HUGE crush on him. Creepy, but whatever. Since they haven’t seen each other in years, neither recognizes the other. So this leads to a bit of a misunderstanding that’s quickly cleared up.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Trust in Tomorrow by Carole Mortimer”
Janelle Taylor’s Sweet Savage Heart, a Zebra Lovegram historical romance, begins in Dakota Territory, May 1867. It is here that an Oglala Indian maiden, Wild Wind, the heroine of the book, is troubled, for she is arguing with her brother, Lone Wolf, over her future. (Backstory: Wild Wind is not actually Indian at all. Her name is Rana Michaels, and she was adopted into her band of Lakotas by Soaring Hawk, a Lakota chief who stole her from the Kiowa tribe which captured and enslaved her after they killed her parents, Marissa Crandall Michaels and Raymond Michaels). Rana is conflicted about her life, and things are about to get more complicated…
In Texas, rancher Nathan Crandall, owner of the Bar-C ranch and Rana’s grandfather, sees a painting of her and realizes it’s his granddaughter. He asks his foreman, Travis Kincade, the hero of the book, for help in getting Rana back. (Travis is half-Hunkpapa Lakota Indian and half-white).. Their efforts are successful, but are complicated by many factors, including Rana herself. However, she does agree to go with Nathan and Travis, and on the way to the ranch, Rana and Travis become lovers (According to Oglala customs, they are married.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor”
Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis has received acclaim from many readers. By no means was this a terrible piece of fiction, but I found it didn’t mesh with my personal tastes. It was…not subtle.
There must be something the matter with me. The Curtises are beloved in the romance genre. The consensus seems to be that they–who occasionally wrote under the pseudonym Laura London–are the greatest thing in romance since Jane Austen. As far as their composition skills go, they’re very sensitive and attentive to detail. The Curtises certainly have talent. There was just something too treacly about this one for me. I coined the term cutsie-woostsie sugar shock after reading Lightning that Lingers. I’m a bitter GenXer, so perhaps my sarcastic takes have made me too apathetic to enjoy a cavity-inducing love story like this.
The first book in Roberta Gellis’s Medieval Song trilogy, Siren Song, takes us to 13th century England.
Lady Elizabeth is not a beauty, but she is intelligent, capable, and now heiress to vast lands, with her brothers and father recently deceased. Elizabeth is married to Mauger, a cruel, murderous lord who wishes for nothing more than to aggrandize himself by whatever means necessary. Mauger has the looks of an angel yet the disposition of a demon. There is no deed too vile for him, as he eagerly breaks every Commandment. It is no mere coincidence that Elizabeth’s brothers conveniently died, leaving her, and thus Mauger, quite wealthy.
Years ago, Elizabeth had been in love with Sir William of Marlowe, and he with her. But parental manipulations led to them being forced to wed others. Now, William is a widower with a daughter of soon-to-be marriageable age.
Brooklyn-born artist Elaine Duillo, who, in her long and storied career, earned the well-deserved moniker of “The Queen of Romance Cover Art,” did it to me again! How many books have I purchased simply because I was dazzled by the hypnotic painted covers, only to find disappointment within the pages of those supposedly lurid novels?
The best thing about Emily Bradshaw’s Halfway to Paradise is its stunning jacket, which is an excellent representation of Duillo’s flair for making even the most mundane tale seem enticing. This one is done primarily in purple hues, with the heroine’s long blonde locks that flow down to her knees providing a bright complement to the hero’s dark-violet doublet.
Back in the day, an Elaine Duillo cover guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. That was not the case with this book.
Why have I spent so much time in this review discussing Duillo’s talent rather than the content of this Halfway to Paradise? Because, lamentably, the book put me halfway to sleep.
Holly Witchell, the heroine of Penny Jordan’s Beyond Compare, suffers a bit from an overinflated ego combined with an oblivious nature. Thankfully, Drew, the wonderful hero of this book, sorts matters all out for her.
Holly was ignominiously dumped by her boyfriend Howard for the more sophisticated, Rosamund. That’s not something Holly will accept laying down, so she concocts a plan to get him back. Hadn’t Rosamund been dating old, reliable Drew Hammond before she’d gotten together with Howard? Well, who better than he to help Holly break up the new couple than Rosamund’s old former flame?
Holly approaches Drew, a farmer, whose the salt-of-the-earth type, with her plan. They’ll pretend to be a couple and make Howard and Rosamund jealous.
Drew isn’t exactly chomping at the bit at her plan to get Rosamund back, and Holly assumes it’s because Drew’s insecure. Holly assures him he has nothing to be insecure about. He’s handsome, even if–OMG–he wears glasses of all things, has a steady income from his farm, and any woman would want him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Beyond Compare by Penny Jordan”
“I had a long row to hoe before I could plunge my spade into Mellusine’s earth and plant a seed there.”
FIRES OF WINTER
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Told through alternating first-person perspectives, Roberta Gellis’s Fires of Winter starts with a bang.
In the first chapter, we experience young hero Bruno of Jernaeve’s life as his castle gets invaded. As an illegitimate child, he is overlooked and left uncared for. He and his sister must hide from the marauders. Later on, it switches to heroine Mellusine of Ulle’s more placid point of view as a child. Although I enjoyed the different perspectives, I found Bruno’s side more interesting than Mellusine’s.
As Bruno matures, he becomes a master in the arts of war. His success earns him Melusine, as a “spoil of war,” for Bruno to wed. Despite their differences, Mellusine and Bruno forge a strong relationship built on sexual attraction, companionship, and trust.
Nicole Jordan’s Tender Feud is an engaging Harlequin Historical where the enemies-to-lovers trope is used against the backdrop of 18th-century Scotland.
Katrine Campbell has left staid England behind for adventure in her ancestral Scottish homeland. Unfortunately, her Campbell relatives are feuding with the Macleans. On her first night in her family home, Katrine gets caught in the middle of it all, and is kidnapped.
Her captor is hunky Raith Maclean, leader of his clan. Maclean is a widower, not looking for remarriage, and certainly not looking for love with his half-Scots-half-English enemy.
There are tons of sparks flying between the fiery Katrine and stubborn Raith. They argue lots but are secretly attracted to one another. The romance takes time to unwind, as Katrine is one of those “spunky” heroines, and Raith is determined to “dominate” her by his will.
Instead, the two learn to build a relationship on trust. Raith has a young female relative with whom Katrine builds an endearing friendship. Raith’s sexy cousin Callum flirts with Katrine. Although she’s not interested in him beyond friendship, Raith glowers and disapproves.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tender Feud by Nicole Jordan”
“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”
MANSION FOR MY LOVE
Harlequin Presents #567
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Mansion for My Love: A Hard Book to Review
Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Loveis one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.
A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are average reads which make for a pleasant way to pass the time, but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.
Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.
Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald”
“Well…I suppose we could have…one for the road.” Garret’s breath was quick, his hands hot. How hard he felt against her softness. He thought she was being flippant; couldn’t believe she’d leave him.
THE DEDICATED MAN
The Dedicated Man by Lass Small is a delightful romance between a slightly older man and a young woman just starting to grow her wings. It’s a story about compromise to make a relationship work. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Small’s trademark humor is a big part of the book as she’s incorporated into other works, like Four Dollars and Fifty One Cents.
Piper is part of a large, loving family. Her younger siblings are a riot. Her parents are good, salt-of-the-earth folks.
Garret is a casual family friend who is drawn to the vivacious Piper. While Garret is an established man with a career, Piper’s barely eighteen. Despite their age difference, the two are attracted to each other and begin to date. They fall in love, and in due time, get married.
Things are great for Garet and Piper, as far as romance goes.
If Joyce Verette’s Dawn of Desire had been marketed differently, I would have read this Ancient Egypt-set novel with an open mind. Then I would not have been as disinterested as I initially was. This is not a romance novel, but paranormal historical fiction. The cover was a clinch, so I figured it was a bodice-ripper, as it and the title implied. Published by Avon in the mid-1970s, I imagined it would feature some rollicking and tawdry love-making. Mostly, I found Dawn’s Desire passionless.
The first 200 pages are dull, with events happening that were quick and not fleshed out. Fortunately, the last half of the book was compelling enough for me to finish.
The story begins with the opening chapter where everybody lies in the heat, sleeping or waking up. Floating on her ship on the Nile, our heroine engages in the same activities for pages on end. It was like like that old meme “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat,” without the “rave,” just some “eat,” and a lot of “sleep.”
He did not speak but continued to look at her, his eyes slowly following the length of her body and back to her face again resting for a heart shaking moment on her mouth…
3 ½ stars
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch
Around the time I read Anne Mather’s Moon Witch, I caught up with “That 70’s Show” on Netflix. I refuse to watch the final season, as that show just devolved into wretchedness. However, the first 5-6 seasons were entertaining with its retro 1970s shtick: a group of teens just hanging out, falling in love, and being stupid. Back then, my 18-year-old daughter was about to graduate from high school. Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something of myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 – 18 year-olds are dumb-asses.