Captive Heart takes place at an undetermined point in history. It is here that Celiese d’Loganville is a slave to Olgerthe Torvald, the pampered daughter of Raktor Torvald, a brutal Viking warlord.
As the book begins, Aldread Valdahl, whose family hates the Torvalds, offers a truce to Raktor. Aldread’s son, Mylan, will marry Olgerethe and end the feud between the families.
Olgerethe refuses to go along with the plan; she will not marry Mylan due to his being disfigured after a fight with a bear. She convinces Celiese to marry Mylan in her place.
When Celiese meets Mylan, she discovers, despite his disfigurement, that he is a very handsome man. They soon marry and enjoy their wedding night.
The next day, however, Raktor tries to kill the couple.
Mylan believes that Celiese knew of the pending attack and grows to hate her. This leads to Mylan spending the next part of the book emotionally and mentally abusing Celiese, calling her his slave, among other derogatory statements. He does offer Celiese a lifeline, however, telling her that if she kills the bear that maimed him, he will set her free. Celiese sets out to do just that, although she doesn’t actually end the bear’s life–Mylan does–she does wound the bear, and Mylan sets her free.
Celiese goes back to Mylan’s family, but this creates further problems. One of Mylan’s younger brothers, Hagen, is in love/lust with Celiese, and later, one of Olgerethe’s brothers, Oluf, tries to rape Celiese. Mylan kills him, but with the other Torvald brothers vowing revenge–and his own father helping them–Mylan and Celiese head to France.
Upon arriving in France, Celiese discovers her mother, Marie, is alive. Their reunion doesn’t go well, however, when Marie discovers that Celiese is married to Mylan, a hated Viking. Celiese plans to get her family’s land back from the Danish invader Hrolf, now known as Robert, who obtained the land from King Charles. Celiese’s plan does not go well.
After being imprisoned by Robert, Mylan rescues her. He does so by claiming to renounce his Danish heritage, agreeing to become a Christian, and marrying Celiese again. This second marriage, however, does not solve all of the issues between them.
By the end of the book, both Celiese and Mylan realize that they do love each other and put those feelings into words that help them find their Happily Ever After.
Celiese. She endures unspeakable cruelty from virtually all the males in her life, but she remains strong. That’s a great quality to have.
For the first third of the book, Mylan is a total bastard. He inflicts intentional emotional and mental cruelty upon Celiese. Yes, she lied to him in the beginning, but that doesn’t justify his treatment of her.
Most of the time, Celiese doesn’t think through her actions, leading her to get into difficult and sometimes dangerous situations
With the exception of Celiese’s stablehand, Andre, there isn’t a likable male in Captive Heart.
The love scenes in Captive Heart are more about the emotions of the act than the esoterics.
It is mentioned that Celiese was treated brutally by Raktor and his sons. Later, Celiese is assaulted several times. The violence described is not graphic.
Bottom Line on Captive Heart
Phoebe Conn’s take on “Beauty and the Beast” is far from classic. Captive Heart is somewhere around a 1-star book.
Rating Report Card
BOUND BY PLEASURE Celiese, the lovely slave girl, gasped when her betrothed emerged from the shadows. She had been secretly sent in her mistress’s place to wed the much-feared Mylan. But instead of the cruel savage she had expected, he was a magnificently handsome warrior. His cool topaz gaze unnerved her. The fire in his touch sent shivers of unfamiliar desire down her spine. And the sweet madness of his burning kiss as he trapped her within an iron embrace made her forget her past, abandon all reason, and surrender herself–if only for one night–to the pleasures of passion’s fire.
BRANDED BY PASSION Mylan stared in astonishment at the woman before him. Instead of the spoiled, pampered innocent he had expected, she was a radiant silver-blonde beauty. The hot flush of her cheeks disarmed him; the flame in the emerald depths of her eyes aroused him. Gathering her into his arms, he silenced her startled protest with a slow, wanton kiss and awakened her supple flesh with tender, searching caresses. He would teach her the secrets of passion, take her to ecstasy’s searing heights, and forever possess her Captive Heart.
The Golden Sovereignsis unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s a stellar piece of writing. The dazzling Charles Geer cover is just the cherry on top.
It’s difficult to categorize this romance it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is immensely gifted to make me enjoy a book where the heroine doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 into this 404-page epic.
The Golden Sovereigns is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale. But unlike salacious romps like Purity’s Passion or Passion’s Proud Captive, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end. He’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.
The First Betrayal
Our story begins in late 17th-century England, in the era of Cavaliers. Carmody Petrie is a gentlewoman in love with Waldo, a no-good, sexy rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but stops there. Carmody 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. When Waldo had laid impertinent hands on her, she had felt a moving, rising, betraying response. Her own body–if she did not carefully govern it–might well turn traitor!”
That certainly brought me to attention. I was ready to enjoy a bawdy, lusty romp. But, as noted, The Golden Sovereigns isn’t like that at all.
Waldo steals Carmody’s dowry and has no intention of marrying her. He’s got another–a wealthier–woman in mind.
Then Carmody’s young brother Ralph gambles their inheritance away to the Duke of Monmouth. She goes to plead with the Duke for mercy. Instead, with him, she finds her first tragic love affair.
Awakened into passion by the Duke of Monmouth–who is written as a complex, tragically-doomed character–Carmody remains loyal to him. She is the only person who stays with him after his final defeat at Sedgemoor. He is now a criminal, and anyone aiding him is one as well.
Carmody assumes a false name. Despite this, she is captured, tried for treason, and sentenced to penal servitude in the West Indies for life.
She is given into employ to a multi-faceted man who is in deep mourning for his dead wife. He’s shockingly cruel to Carmody, even though he never forces her to engage in sex.
In time, she gets her freedom, but it’s temporary as more trials and tribulations face Carmody.
Later she’s forced into marriage and finds herself in the American colonies. Now the love story begins.
Finally, We Meet the Hero
At long last, we meet the hero, Mark Tennant, a truly decent human being who offers Carmody a different world she’s known, one filled with joy & love. Her response to him is heartbreaking:
“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 most unusual aspect of this bodice ripper is that Carmody and Mark don’t consummate their relationship. At least, not in the book, although I assume they would after the novel ends.
Carmody and Mark’s relationship transcends physical love. Theirs is a meeting of spirit. That is paramount to the meeting of flesh.
Final Analysis of The Golden Sovereigns
The Golden Sovereigns was such a pleasant surprise to encounter. Jocelyn Carew is an author whose works I’d like to know more about.
I admit I’m not a patient reader. Although I adore vintage romances, the older I get, the more difficult they are to read. The long-page counts and tiny fonts usually cause my interest to wane. (ADHD is no fun.) I’ll put a book down, forgetting I ever started it. So many half-finished books!
There have been other romances where I have been less forgiving about the same flaws that The Golden Sovereigns has (ie, the heroine meeting the hero more than halfway through the book). Carew makes the journey worthwhile.
This was a skillfully written bodice ripper, very philosophical in nature. It delved into the strange depths of humanity.
The Golden Sovereigns fell short of perfection, however, due to the limited interaction between Carmody and Mark. There was a more prominent emphasis on the villain, who was a fascinating character, but not as much as Mark.
I consider this to be an unexpected piece of great fiction. It simply lacked a little oomph at the end to make it perfect.
Rating Report Card
Surging with passion and epic power, The Golden Sovereigns sweeps from the proud family estates of England to the exotic West Indies to the sprawling plantations of the Virginia Colony — and, against the pageantry and adventure of an enthralling age, reveals the fiery spirit of a beautiful woman destined for blazing desire.
Thrust into the tumultuous events of two continents — and into the lustful embraces of men of high and low station — Carmody Petrie braves enslavement, danger, and royal intrigue to conquer her tormentors…and to seal, in the arms of the adoring Mark Tennant, their fated bond of surpassing love.
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.
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.)
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.
There are a few sex scenes, a few pages long but not overly graphic.
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.
Rating Report Card
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…
Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel was a crazy book that in 1991 could only have been published by the Zebra romance lines. Or in 1977 by Avon.*
It was utterly unrealistic, but I had a blast with it.
Passion’s Chains was the first romance novel I read after subscribing to the Lovegram line many, many years ago. The plot description on the back of the book sounded like this would be a riot. And it was!
Lady Eden Parrish met American ship captain Roark St. Claire in England. The two people from different worlds shared a hidden, forbidden love.
The pair married in secret. However, before they could consummate their union, Eden’s family tricked her into believing the worst about Roark.
Thus, Eden is abandoned by her husband, and her is heart broken into pieces.
Then Eden’s family whisked her off to their Barbados plantation to avoid any taint of scandal.
Eden is living a lonely existence in Barbados. Months later, Roark discovers her whereabouts in the Caribbean and follows her there. The American is captured by the British and sold into slavery.
Walking through town one day, Eden sees him at the auction block. To everyone’s scandalized shock, she purchases him as her servant.
Perhaps sentimentality plays a part in me remembering this novel so fondly. I thought this book was delightful.
Roark would sneak into Eden’s room at night and assume his “husbandly rights.” By day, he labored away in the sugar fields, plotting his escape and his revenge.
On the negative side, there was a bland secondary couple and some typical boneheaded villains.
Worse, were the stupid, big misunderstandings Eden and Roark could have avoided if they just talked and listened to each other’s words!
Final Analysis of Passion’s Chains
I don’t want to re-read Catherine Creel’s Passion’s Chains to see if it stands the test of time. I want to recall it fondly because I had such a blast reading this one!
Roark was such an outstanding hero. Eden was likable enough for a heroine.
Passion’s Chains or Shanna?
*This historical romance was a rip-off/homage to Kathleen E Woodiwiss‘sShanna, as the plots are similar identical. So are the heroes’ names, except the spellings are different.
Until 2022 I had never read Shanna. I appreciated the celebrated blockbuster considerably more than I thought I would. Still, at 600+ pages, it was a long read.
Passion’s Chains is a leaner story at 400 pages, without much filler. That is amazing for a Zebra romance!
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book more than Shanna. Maybe it’s for the reason I mentioned, out of nostalgia, or just because I read Passion’s Chains first. But I did love this one.
Rating Report Card
HE HAD BETRAYED HER Lady Eden Parrish stared in shock at the bare-chested, blue-eyed rogue who stood so proudly on the Bridgetown auction block– he was none other than her husband, the despicable Roark St. Clair! Eden had been sent to Barbados in disgrace after her brief, scandalous marriage to the unscrupulous American spy…after the way he’d betrayed her, she ought to let his contract of indenture be sold to the highest bidder. But memories of how it felt to be embraced by those strong arms and held tight against that well-muscled chest flooded her mind and body, and soon Eden was offering a fortune for the right to claim him as her own!
SHE STILL LOVED HIM Roark had come to Barbados for only one reason–to reclaim his runaway bride. Of course, getting captured by the British and sold into slavery hadn’t been part of the plan, but t situation was working out nicely, things considered. He would find a to escape and take the luscious along, with or without her consent. The little minx might be his mistress now, but he’d soon be her master. He knew just how to tame her wild spirit and make those emerald eyes shimmer with passion’s fire. Before long, he would possess every silken inch of her…for this night and all the nights to come!
I’ve long had a tenuous relationship with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ romances. Shanna is the fourth of her books I’ve attempted to read, but it’s the only one I’ve completed. That’s a net positive in this bodice-ripper-lite‘s column.
Now, did I love it? Love is a strong word. I’d say, overall, it was enjoyable, if a bit long.
The Characters and Setup
Shanna Trahern is the spoiled only child of a wealthy Caribbean planter and widower, “Squire” Orlan Trahern. He’s part of the upstart merchant class and tres riche.
Fortune hunters and noblemen fallen upon hard times seek her hand, but Shanna will have none of them! Why can’t a man love her for who she is, dammit: a haughty, ill-tempered, busty, aqua-eyed blonde with a flawless complexion?
Her doting father has given his beautiful and independent daughter one year in England to choose an appropriate man to marry. Otherwise, he will arrange a marriage for her. Squire Trahern wants grandbabies, dammit! Besides, his daughter could use a husband to tame her wild ways.
Determined to be ruled by no man, Shanna colludes with her servant Pitney to arrange a quickie marriage to some black-sheep gentleman doomed to the hangman’s noose. That way, she’ll have official records she was legally wed. Then she’d return home, a widow in mourning, determined never to remarry.
The man she “chooses” is a bearded wretch convicted of killing a barmaid. Despite his thin, unkempt appearance, the hero has a charm in his hazel-gold eyes.
He’s our hero Ruark Beauchamp. Ruark gave me total Hugh Jackman vibes for some reason, so I was on board.
Shanna promises to make the man’s last days pleasant by moving him to nicer quarters and keeping his belly fed. Instead, the prisoner arrogantly demands the consummation of his marital rights because Shanna is really hot.
She concedes to this, but any dingbat with two brain cells should know she’s full of it. But alas, our hero is besotted from the get-go over Shanna. His brains are in his balls. Ruark’s sole aim in this book is either getting into Shanna’s bed or obtaining vengeance in the form of getting Shanna into his bed!
Ruark is cleaned up, and wouldn’t ya know it? With some food in his stomach, a haircut, a shave, and a wash, Ruark is really hot.
Shanna’s southern girly parts tingle. Ruark eyes Shanna’s northern girly parts making promises of a pleasurable time to come.
The ceremony is performed. Into the carriage and on their way are the newlyweds. But Ruark can’t take it anymore, his lust for her bust overwhelms him, and he takes her. For a couple of humps, he is allowed to experience paradise. Shanna is confused by the fluttering sensations she’s experiencing.
Then the coach stops, and Ruark realizes Shanna had no intention of upholding her side of the bargain. He is taken away, but not without a bitter fight, before presumably being executed.
Shanna spares Ruark not another thought (okay, maybe one or two) and returns home to her father’s island of Los Camellos.
Shanna’s other servant involved in her scheme decides to line his pockets in an even schemier scheme. He substitutes a dead man’s body for Ruark’s and takes him as a slave for Shanna’s father, of course. And wouldn’t ya know it? As Shanna sails home, Ruark is on that same ship.
Soon, to her great dismay, Shanna becomes aware of the new servant’s presence, and so does her father. Ruark never reveals he is Shanna’s legitimate husband (which would have made more sense since Ruark was so eager to get under Shanna’s petticoats).
As the new slave on the job, Ruark impresses the bossman with his engineering skills and–ahem–masterful knowledge of plantations. (It turns out Ruark’s family are wealthy colonial planters related to English nobility. What the hell was Ruark thinking, not contacting them or telling his father-in-law who he was?)
Trahern is so impressed that he gives Ruark special duties with special benefits. The day comes when the slave is dining at the table with the master and his wife—the slave’s wife, that is, not the master’s.
Apparently, Ruark is deep into some heavy roleplay because this slave thing turns him on. When Shanna sees him while riding her horse, he taunts her, and she hits him with her crop.
Instead of reacting violently, as these heroes in ‘rippers would, Ruark only smiles and vows to tame her to his will…
Funny enough, Shanna is viewed as having always gotten her way and in need of the right proper taming. She is a real itchbay, never satisfied with anything.
Everything displeased her, and even the flawlessness of her own beauty, regally gowned in rich ivory satin and costly lace, did not change her mood of discontent.
Ruark cares not. Nothing matters, not freedom, not clearing his name for a crime he didn’t commit, and not returning home. He must have his Shanna!
The give-and-take, push-and-pull between Shanna and Ruark is highly exciting until it reaches its apex. Ruark finally gets his honeymoon!
It seems that Ruark has found his Paradise on Earth. That is until a big misunderstanding sends Shanna into a jealous rage.
Shanna demands he daddy sell Ruark off to pirates… Oh, hell, that’s where this book takes a nosedive.
Let’s just “yada, yada, yada” this okay?
Yada… Nasty stinky pirates…
Yada… Ruark reveals the truth about his identity, and the true identity of other people comes to light.
Yada… And an evil villain named Gaylord gets his in the end.
Shanna realizes she loves Ruark and promises to stop being such a Seaward.
Shanna gives birth to twins, and her papa is happy as can be.
“In your madness you said you loved me,” she murmured shyly.
His humor fled, and the smile left her lips as she continued, “You said it before, too. When the storm struck, I asked you to love me, and you said you did.” Her voice was the barest of whispers.
Ruark’s gaze turned away from her, and he rubbed the bandage on his leg before he spoke. “Strange that madness should speak the truth, but truth it is.”
If Shanna had ended at the 450-page mark–or 325 pages a la Johanna Lindsey–it would have been glorious, a book I’d track down every edition of. I could have easily overlooked the flaws in favor of the positive aspects.
But it keeps going and going—so many fillers. I read a thousand romances from age 12 to 15 of all lengths and could zip through a 1,000-page book per week. Today at 44, I do not have that patience. I have ADHD. I’ve said this before in a review of another book: “The paragraphs are too damn long!”
I’m no enemy of adverbs and adjectives. The world would be a dark place without modifiers. It’s that Woodiwiss didn’t believe in using one or two or three when ten or twelve would suit her better! There are innumerable adverbs, adjectives, adverbs, and dependent clauses.
Let us not forget the effusive purple prose, the poem at the beginning, and the seriousness with which she takes herself. It appeared that Woodiwiss employed every grammatical trick at her disposal.
Shanna is your typical beautiful, cossetted, foot-stamping, won’t-listen-to-reason heroine with eyes that flash in anger, the kind that was so prevalent in old-school romances. Usually, I can’t stand this type because she’s written as “too stupid to live” (which is insulting to women who lived and endured hard times in the past).
I shouldn’t have liked Shanna, the character. For some reason, I did. She was caustic, yet she had a will. She contrived, and she plotted. Shanna tried to control her destiny instead of letting others do it for her.
Author Laura Kinsale wrote in her essay “The Androgynous Reader” about Shanna:
“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”
Shanna would qualify as the irksomely independent type. I typically don’t enjoy them, but when contrasting Shanna’s attitude with Ruark’s easy-going nature, it made for a sizzling combination.
So, apologies to Kinsale, but this readerdid “identify with, admire, or internalize” some of Shanna’s characteristics. I’m an outlier, as ever.
Ruark was an enigma. He was charming, handsome, and kind. Ruark was a dreamy hero, but I couldn’t grasp why he was so obsessed with Shanna. He should have been more concerned about his own hide.
First, he’s on death row, about to hang for a murder he did not commit. Then he’s sent overseas in chains to be a plantation slave.
Does he dream about getting free and plotting revenge against those who wronged him? Not really. From the moment he sees her in prison, his primary focus is having Shanna and putting his pee-pee into her wee-wee.
The Cover and More
In 1977 Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ long-awaited third novel made romance history when Avon released Shanna in trade paperback edition. It had a full-stretch green cover, illustrated by H. Tom Hall and designed by Barbara Bertoli. This was one of the first true American clinches. The entire exterior was painted, displaying the couple locked passionately together in a state of undress.
Playboy Press’ This Ravaged Heart by Barabara Riefe also came out in 1977 with a full-page color clinch. But Betty Maxey’s artwork doesn’t compare to Hall’s fabulous cover. Plus, Shanna had a map insert that you could unfold.
Avon heavily promoted this book, running commercial ads on daytime television and in national women’s magazines. It paid off. Shanna sold 3 million copies and was on the NY Times bestseller list for a year.
Shanna was optioned for a film, but negotiations fell through when Woodiwiss couldn’t agree with the producers on the vision. The romance genre might be different if this mild bodice ripper had been brought to the big screen in the 1970s or early 1980s!
Final Analysis of Shanna
I once referred to Shanna as the same book as Catherine Creel’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire romance Passion’s Chains. Creel certainly ripped off Woodiwiss as the main thrusts of the books are almost identical: secret marriage where the husband is a slave on the wife’s island plantation. The two novels deviate midway and then culminate in about the same place.
To be frank, I think I prefer Passion’s Chains more than I did Shanna, even though I enjoyed both. Perhaps the word count might have something to do with it. Passion’s Chains was 480 pages in a standard-size font. Shanna had teeny-tiny type-face on 666 super-thin pages.
Plotting and pacing matter. There was too much exposition and unnecessary antics in Shanna. In addition, I didn’t OMG love it enough at the beginning to forgive any sins that cropped up in the end, as I would in a fantastic epic book like Stormfire.
Ruark was the book’s high point, a charming, good-natured hero determined to have his woman. However, I did not understand his obsession with Shanna when he should have focused more on clearing his name. Shanna’s a spoiled, petulant brat, although, as I said, I didn’t mind that. I find mean and unlikeable heroines are more palatable than the shy, milk-and-water types or boring blank slates.
Was this a stellar old-school romance that I’ll long to re-read? No, although maybe a passage or two might stay with me. However, I am glad I read Shanna. I can finally say I completed a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss romance and liked it!
Now on to The Flame and the Flower!
(Note: I bumped my rating for Shanna up to 4 stars after now that I finished The Flame and the Flower. RTC!)
Rating Report Card
A woman with surging desires of the spirit, the flesh, and the heart…
The only child of an 18th century sugar baron, lovely Shanna Trahern is given a year to find a suitable husband in London or to be married off to a dull planter. Instead, she contrives to marry Ruark Beauchamp, condemned to die for the supposed murder of a barmaid.
Certain her concocted story of a romantic elopement and marriage, followed by Ruark’s accidental death, will satisfy her father, Shanna embarks for home — the lush, intrigue-filled Carribean island of Los Camellos. But unknown to Shanna, her husband has escaped the gallows and under another name is among the bondsmen purchased by her father’s agent. Once home, Shanna is tormented by Ruark’s playful taunts — and his threat to collect “The night of love” she had promised him in prison. But when she is carried off by pirates; Ruark risks his life to save her. Now Shanna must deal with the searing passion the proud, virile Ruark has aroused…
A man burning to possess her in vengeance and in ecstasy…
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent.
I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that.
Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.
The Set Up
Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of Through the Storm, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners.
Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.
Through the Storm begins as Sable’s master is doomed to a fiery death as his home burns with him inside. Knowing she has to forge a place for herself, she flees to find sanctuary. On her travels, she meets Harriet Tubman, who tells Sable she has been waiting for her. Tubman guides Sable to a contraband camp, a haven for refugee slaves.
Sable meets Union soldier Raimond LeVeq, who wastes no time letting Sable know of his attraction to her. He’s supposed to be suave and debonair, but sometimes he came off as trying too hard. Sable rebuffs his advancements, quickly figuring out his number.
She works at the camp, does errands and chores, helping the men with letters and other duties. Nevertheless, Raimond is a charmer, and Sable finds herself falling under his allure in time.
However, the evil man who purchased Sable looms on the horizon, forcing Sable to flee yet again, this time further North. Raimond is left with no word why. What could have been love turns into mistrust and contempt.
Sable finds herself face to face with Raimond later on, this time under different circumstances. He needs to find a wife. Raimond’s mother is convinced that Sable is the woman for him. So he reluctantly finds himself committed to the woman who almost broke his heart.
Sable and Raimond reconnect, learning to trust and care for one another again. Still, they have their struggles. Raimond comes on hard, but Sable is no pushover. Raimond has a mistress, although he quickly casts her aside. And danger still looms on the horizon, with the crazed villain determined to have Sable.
Final Analysis of Through the Storm
Beverly Jenkin’s Through the Storm is a slightly uneven romance filled with multiple tropes and a hefty dose of history. I really wanted to love this but found myself skimming through some parts.
Through the Storm certainly does not merit an unfavorable rating, as I enjoyed many elements, but some of the negatives overshadowed them. The pacing is a bit off, as many events occur in one section, then nothing happens in others. Also, I could have done without some of the info-dumping “As you know Bob” dialogue.
Sable is a fantastic heroine, filled with grit and competence. Raimond is an “Alpha,” and he comes on quite intense at times. Raimond is nowhere as smooth as he thinks he is. However, I’m pleased to note that the love scenes are well-done and erotic in a very 1990s fashion.
The villain is a rather hateful beast, and I relished his comeuppance.
I appreciated that Through the Storm was no wallpaper romance. It was a genuine historical–or at least, one where historical events mattered.
All in all, I’m glad I read this one, but I think there are other romances by Jenkins that will be more suited to my tastes.
Rating Report Card
Sable, a slave on the run to escape the cruel man she’s been sold to is forced to betray the charming Union officer Raimond LeVeq, who had romanced her and championed her.
Brought together again by fate and an arranged marriage, she must try and win the trust of LeVeq–the man she truly loves.
Christine Monson‘s second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor from her previous romance Stormfire. That bodice ripper was legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance.
Rangoon still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.
West Meets East
It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life.
Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system.
She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.
A name like Lysistrata should give a hint about the heroine’s independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience.
Over time I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.
Lysi is ever cognizant of her expected role in society but sticks to her convictions in an admirable and likable way.
Intrigued by Harley’s outsider status, Lysistrata pursues Ram–to her detriment.
For although their mutual desire results in a night of passion, Harley turns the tables on her, revealing a cruel nature that a veneer of civility had hidden.
When Harley is framed for a murder he did not commit, he assumes Lysi is behind the false accusations. Before he makes his getaway, he vows he will have revenge!
Lysi’s bold behavior made her numerous enemies. These unscrupulous foes collude to have her kidnapped and sold into slavery.
Revenge Turns to Passion
It’s no surprise when Harley purchases her for his own enjoyment. Now that he’s lost his life and status in the so-called civilized White society, he has nothing to lose. Harley takes her to his majestic jungle hideaway, where he will exact his vengeance.
Now going by the name Ram, he shows Lysi a darker side of his nature. For those readers who cannot stomach abuse, fear not.
Whereas in Stormfire, Monson had the hero imprison, torture, rape, and humiliate his heroine, in Rangoon Ram is not near as extreme in his cruelty. He does make Lysi his unwilling mistress.
Ram’s actions may blur the line on consent, although it’s clear Monson has written his behavior more as a “forced seduction” fantasy than a brutal violation.
“You’re practiced enough at rape,” she hissed. “It must be your only alternative to buying a bed partner.” “But I only had to rape you a little,” he teased, “and of course, I will pay you if you prefer.” “I prefer to be left alone!” He laughed. “After last night, even you don’t believe that lie. Why not admit you enjoy what I do to you?” “Go to hell.”
Despite Lysistrata’s defiance, she finds herself enchanted by Ram and his magical palace in the wilderness.
This middle portion of the story is the best part of the book as Ram and Lysi engage in a tug-and-pull power play. As a mixed-race corsair, Ram has always lived on the fringes, torn between two worlds that never truly accepted him. As a free-thinking woman, Lysistrata has been constrained by the dictates of society.
I could have read hundreds of pages more about their engrossing battle of wills.
The Faltering End
Alas, Lysistrata and Ram’s idyll in the Burmese jungle does come to an end. The false murder charges finally catch up with Ram, and he is arrested.
Now with Ram on trial, Lysistrata fights to save him from the hangman’s noose.
This is where Rangoon fell apart for me. No longer an engaging character-driven romance, the book turned into a dull courtroom drama that went on and on.
Plus, there were multiple side characters who added nothing to the story except for one charismatic fellow.
Final Analysis of Rangoon
Despite Christine Monson’s thoughtful writing, the lackluster conclusion of Rangoon caused my initial delight to wane.
It was a disappointment that the incredible, thrilling highs of her first book were not reached here.
Monson’s characters are strong. Her sensitive skill at her craft was undeniable. However, the plotting was weak in Rangoon.
It’s one of those romance novels I’m glad to have read but have no plans to ever revisit.
On to the next book.
Rating Report Card
WILLING PRISONER IN A PALACE OF DREAMS… Rangoon. Lysistrata’s heart raced with excitement. A world away from Boston. A place where she could forget…
Rangoon—land of color and adventure—where, like an emerging butterfly, she would taste the exotic and dangerous life of the streets, and dance in the palaces of princes.
But one man made her want even more. Richard Harley’s dark and wicked eyes warned of danger…and hinted at pleasures beyond her wildest fantasies. Drawn, like a moth to the flame, by the lure of the East and the man who was its soul, Lysistrata traveled forbidden roads and journeyed deep into the heart of Burma. And in the secluded majesty of Richard Harley’s castle of erotic dreams, she could at last yield to the man whose passion possessed her, as they both surrendered to the obsession of their love.
Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is her fourth and–in my opinion–her best book. This is peak bodice ripper fun; it’s salacious, entertaining, and attempts (and succeeds) at profundity.
I’ll probably rewrite a more in-depth analysis of this historical romance at another time. For now, here are my reading notes assembled into a semblance of a review.
His lips touched the back of her neck and moved along her stubborn shoulder. One hand stroked her breasts, and the other moved unerringly between her thighs; he found the most sensitive part of her and moved against her and in her until her half-formed protests turned into soft, stifled moans.
WICKED LOVING LIES
Readers, do these plot points sound fun to you?
Traveling to almost every continent in the world
Affairs with noblemen, warriors, and even Napoleon!
Being a criminal on the run
Highwaymen, high seas action, and harems
Getting branded with your husband’s initials after he bangs you in front of your new lover… And then said lover gets so aroused, he bangs you afterward!
If you have a high threshold for triggering issues like:
A mother having her only child taken away from her
Plus, enjoy a hefty dose of second-wave feminism from a heroine who goes to hell and back several times over…
If any of this sounds like your idea of a thrilling read–because it certainly is–then Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers might be a book you’d want to pick up.
As far as I’m concerned, this is Rosemary Rogers at her prime.
Some parts of Wicked Loving Lies were scorching hot, like Chapter 17. Other parts were heartbreaking. Many parts were shocking.
There’s only one thing this book NEVER is: boring!
That’s what I loved about these the best of these older romances, there was always so much stuff going on you never had time to overanalyze and nitpick, you just kept moving.
Rosemary Rogers knew how to write a page-turner.
The Proto-Feminist Heroine
“Oh damn men and their superior ways. From now on I’ll stand on my own two feet and fight for what I want–anyway I have to, with my body and my wits… Why not? It’s a man’s world, what other choice do you leave a woman who possesses a mind?“
WICKED LOVING LIES
Those words are from Marisa, the heroine of this amazing, action-packed bodice ripper by the Original Great, the legendary Rosemary Rogers.
Marisa is a heroine you want to smack or shake or hug or give a big old high five.
She’s amazing as she never gave up, even though life kept coming at her with no remorse. Except for when she thought her beloved Dominic was dead.
And even then, Marisa was not going out without taking someone else with her.
Final Analysis of Wicked Loving Lies
Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is an excellent experience for bodice ripper enthusiasts but not for the faint of heart.
This book will shock you. I loved it!
Rating Report Card
Born of scandal and denied his birthright, Dominic Challenger took to the sea, charting his own future. A true rogue, Dominic answers to no one, trusting only himself. Until Marisa.
Born of wealth and privilege, Marisa is a prisoner to her father’s expectations. When the sanctuary she has found behind the walls of a convent is threatened by the news that her father has arranged for her to marry, Marisa flees…right into the arms of a pirate.
From the safety of a sheltered convent to a sultan’s harem, from the opulence of Napoleon’s court to the wilds of the new frontier, Marisa and Dominic brave all that they encounter in this thrilling age: intrigue, captivity and danger. And above all, an enduring passion that ignites into an infinite love.
With a shimmering Pino Daeni cover featuring a muscled guy who looks a lot like Fabio embracing a blonde on a Viking ship (spot the horse on the cover!) this could just have been another ho-hum romance.
But it’s not.
This is how the tale begins:
The world was a colder, darker place then. It was an axe age, a wind age, a time when men didn’t dare give mercy, and a time when the powerful exacted what they could and the weak granted what they must.
Ok, that definitely piqued my interest.
The ominous effect is spoiled a bit in the next paragraph with a glaring misspelling, thanks to the ever so diligent Zebra editors (who were so lackadaisical that even I could’ve easily found work there!).
There are several typos to be found, which is a shame, as such a good book deserved more cautious editing. For example, the word hardier is used instead of heartier.
On the other hand, Crenshaw diligently tries to portray the authenticity of the Viking era and sticks to lots of historical facts. This book also borrows heavily from the Icelandic sagas.
The Vikings are portrayed as pitiless warriors. The heroine is a lady, not the clichéd young girl trained by her father as a boy in the arts of war.
The Plot of Edin’s Embrace
The plot of Edin’s Embrace seems like your standard Viking fare. Warriors from the North come to the British Isles. They kill all the men and pillage a castle. Edin, the heroine, sees her family killed and is taken as a slave by the hero, Thoryn.
Ever so slowly, a love story unfolds.
In a typical bodice ripper, sometimes the Viking uses force. Whereas in modern romances, he’s a sensitive toned-down version of what should be a ferocious beast of a man.
Thoryn is more of an in-between type. He starts out a rough sort then steadily transforms into a man willing to search within himself and change his ways if he has to.
Edin’s Embrace: The Love Story
While the genuine Viking atmosphere is a major plus here, the real draw is the love story.
Edin is Thoryn’s thrall. He finds he is enslaved by her.
Thoryn threatens Edin with violence and rape. In actuality, he treats her with care and is eager to satisfy her in bed.
I appreciate that there is no other woman for Thoryn (except for a brief encounter with a prostitute), no other great love of his. He is a primal force of a man and love is not part of his mentality.
“What is love?” is a phrase often queried here. Sometimes this book gets philosophical about the nature of man and woman and their bonds together.
Women are a biological need for Thoryn. Yet before Edin came along, they offered little in terms of mental stimulation and affection. With her, he becomes a better man and a better lover.
There is a scene where Thoryn approaches a Viking friend and asks him if women enjoy sex–and if they do, how can men go about pleasing them?
His friend proves to be no expert as he laughs at the idea that women are supposed to enjoy sex.
Despite his friend’s poor advice, Thoryn learns how to pleasure Edin by being an attentive lover. She, in turn, learns to pleases him. For although Edin had been a virgin and Thoryn with more sexual experience, in reality they were both novices at making love.
Their passion for each other soon transcends the carnal growing into a spiritual adoration. But can their love unite such different people?
Edin is gentle and pacific. Thoryn is a brutish man of war. They are two disparate yet complementary individuals drawn together.
A Great Scene
This is the scene that won me over in Edin’s Embrace. It made me realize I was not reading another tame, ho-hum Viking book:
There he held her. She felt the sword point keenly. She became aware of her ribs beneath it, how delicate the bones were, how easily they could be pierced.
“I’m waiting thrall! What say you know?”
She whispered, “I-I am free, a nobleman’s daughter.”
“I’m challenging you—fight me, my lady!”
“I can’t fight you, Viking, as well you know.”
“Aye,” he said slowly, lowering his weapon at last, “as well I know.”
Her gaze lifted again, all the way to his face. “But I will never be your slave,” she said stubbornly.
This time he reacted with immediate anger, the most parlous kind of anger, the kind born of frustration. The jerk of his head told her of his ire, and her breath froze at the cold flare of temper in his eyes. In an instant, he became fearsome, furious mad. His mighty sword swung again, and he closed in. There was an ice storm rampaging in his eyes. The flat of his sword lifted her chin, until she was looking at him down its long gilt and silver length. All he said now was, “Slave or sword point?”
The flames snapped in the fire pit behind her. The cold, steel point pricking her throat never moved the slightest. For an immeasurable extent of time, she stood perfectly still, living in a state of strain. She searched for an answer. And impaled on his gaze, feeling all those wild and hungry eyes on her, something of her pride broke inside her. In the end, she could only whisper: “Slave.”
Final Analysis of Edin’s Embrace
When I read a bodice ripper, I expect juicy, pulpy drama. Despite the riveting opening chapters, there’s more introspection than action here; far more than I usually enjoy. Somehow in Edin’s Embrace, it works.
As a reader of historicals, I have always been searching for that great Viking romance. This might be the best. I still rate Johanna Lindsey’sFires ofWinter a 5-star read because, for me at 13 (and 15 then 18), the book was a 5-star read.
Today I might view that romance through different eyes. But I’m not the kind of reader who decides if a book I once appreciated now somehow displeases me, any negative feeling erases my past pleasure.
However when I look at a new book, I need something different. Something more hardcore. Edin’s Embrace comes close to perfection. It’s not–still, I loved it.
Edin’s Embrace is a fabulous romance worthy of acclaim.
Rating Report Card
WAR HUNGRY VIKING
The crash of a wooden club and the howl of a Norse cur forever shattered innocent Edin’s dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart. And when the svelte young beauty found herself in the grip of her betrothed’s killer, Edin vowed one day she’d give the devilish invader his due. But as she hardened her heart against him, the gorgeous captive’s body couldn’t shut out his nearness. His broad chest heated her, his strong hands molded her…and Edin was soon longing for the ruthless raider from the North to show her his uncivilized kind of love!
Ever since his father had been murdered by a British bedthrall, fierce Thoryn Kirkynson had sworn vengeance on all the English dogs. The accursed land was for pillaging, its men meant for hard labor, and its women for illicit pleasures. Yet even as the bearded Nordic chieftain swung his axe in slaughter, he could not staunch the rush of tender feelings that flooded him when he saw the enemy princess. Loathing himself for his father’s weakness, Thoryn sought not only to dominate his captive…he yearned for her whispers of love and endless hours of ecstasy in Edin’s Embrace.
Sherwood would always lovingly dedicate her books to the special cats in her life. InBorn to Love, it was Mopsy and Chow. She was slightly cat crazy.
So in honor of Ms. Sherwood–and from one crazy cat lady to another–I would like to dedicate my review of Born to Love to one of my cats.
You sweet, gentle soul, a little black-furred, black-nosed, green-eyed wonder.
Bear, you came into my life at 19, when your mother, a feral queen, bore her kittens in the warehouse of the office where I worked. I took you home at four weeks old and because you had not been weaned, I had to feed you milk and mush. Every night before I’d fall asleep, you’d suck at my earlobe as you would have at your mother’s teat.
Even when you grew, you still held on to this adorable kittenish trait.
Sadly Bear, you were in my life for just over a year. I went back to college and my landlady would not allow cats so you stayed home with my mother and siblings. Perhaps life there without me was not what you desired, because you ran away.
I never saw you again and I cried many tears of loss. But I have never forgotten you.
To you Bear, this review is dedicated.
The Set Up: A Family Saga
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, on to the book.
Born to Love is actually four stories of several generations of women with the same name, Dorinda, and their (mis)adventures in love. As repeated over (and over), the premise of the tale is: “It takes one generation to make it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.”
The First Three Dorindas
The book opens up with the most exciting story of the group. Angel-faced, golden-haired Dorinda, a chambermaid, escapes the Great London fire. She valiantly saves Grantland Meredith from street toughs. Then the two marry each other. The simple Dorinda is shocked when she learns he is an Earl.
Unfortunately for sweet Dorinda, she is not his true love. That would be Polly, an amoral, evil black-haired she-devil of a woman. Polly is the best character in the book, relentlessly calculating and conniving, willing to do anything to have her man. It’s no surprise when this tale ends in tragedy.
Their daughter Rinda’s tale is the second part. Rinda is a wealthy, hereditary Countess. That struck me as odd, as I don’t think that English titles were passed on through the female line back then, but what do I know? Rinda falls in love with Rory, the son of her mother’s rival.
This second Dorinda risks everything to save her man at the Monmouth Rebellion. Sherwood kept repeating how brave, how bold, how valiant Rinda was to ride into battle and save Rory. It would have been nice to see it happen, not hear about it again and again. This story is kind of a letdown.
Of the third Dorinda, we hear about only in a summarized tale told to the fourth Dorinda.
It takes a generation to make a it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.
The Main Story
The last half of the book deals with Dorinda IV, an indentured servant in Virginia. I liked this Dorinda and her cat, Lady Soft-Paws. Her story, while enjoyable, was uneven.
After her time as an indentured servant is over, Dorinda seeks adventure. She pretends to be a long-lost heiress to a plantation.
Two handsome men vie for her attention, although it’s obvious who the hero is. He is Tarn Jenner a man shrouded in mystery. He hides a secret identity, but we don’t know this until the end.
The characters play deceitful games, but this delightful plot point is squandered as Dorinda spends most of her time mooning over the villain.
Tarn Jenner, who is really a witty character, isn’t seen enough to be fully appreciated. The parts we do see are terrific but fleeting.
The back of the book claims:
“She was the Beauty… He was the Blade-dark debonair, the most dangerous highwayman to rove the colonial roads.”
And yet the highwayman portion is a tiny part of the story and only revealed in brief towards the end!
Final Analysis of Born to Love
The conclusion of Born to Love is wrapped up in a neat package. Although it’s left up to the imagination what the fate of the fifth Dorinda will be.
Sometimes I hate rating a book 4-stars, particularly when with just more care to detail and pacing, it could have been a 5-star read. Born to Love was a book that reached great highs and very middling lows.
Although I love her voice, this is a problem I’ve run into when reading Valerie Sherwood’s romances. Plus, she makes a great hero and sometimes doesn’t do much with him.
If I’m focusing too much on the negatives of this family saga it’s because this one could have been great, a book I loved. As it is, I just liked it very much.
Rating Report Card
She was The Beauty — reckless Dorinda Meredith, heiress to the wind!
He was The Blade — dark, debonair, most dangerous of highwaymen to rove the colonial highroads.
A world of intrigue and danger stood between them, but they were star-crossed lovers — born to meet, born to clash, and Born to Love