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murmur of rain

Historical Romance Review: Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn

If Patricia Vaughn’s follow-up to Murmur of Rain is half as excellent as this book is, then it’s a tragic loss that only a pair of her historical romances saw publication.

historical romance review
Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1996
Illustrator: Dominick Finelle
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Black or Afro American Romance, Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 465
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn


The Book

Books like Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn are why I adore the romance genre. This 1996 novel, published by Pocket Books, caught me by surprise with its mesmerizing storytelling. From the first page, the exquisite prose of this Gothic-tinged historical romance captured my attention.

The heroine is a lovely black French woman, Lauren Dufort, who lives in Paris in 1891. Lauren captures the heart of the cultured and wealthy Roget de Martier with her beauty and talent for music. Later, she is introduced to an exotic world across the sea, where danger looms.

Lauren will discover that beneath the luxury of Roget’s plantation home, Villa de Martier, lies a family history shrouded in darkness. She will be caught in an evil web of familial entanglements where darkness rules the day.

Despite her challenges, Lauren remains determined to reclaim the passion and happiness she and Roget once had. But will murder and death thwart her dreams?

The Setup

Murmur of Rain has a rich cast of characters whose lives we encounter throughout Lauren and Roget’s love story. When the book opens, an awful tragedy will impact the heroine’s life.

A run-away trolley roars down the street and crashes into a group of pedestrians. One unfortunate woman is crushed under the wheels and horses’ hooves. The woman had been carrying a babe in her arms, and before the trolley ran her over, she instinctively threw her child into the crowd. As if guided by Providence, an onlooker was able to catch the child.

A boy watching the horrible events recognizes the dying African woman as the wife of a local French clerk.

The clerk, Jean Dufort, arrives too late and sobs as he sees his wife’s broken body. The woman who saved his daughter passes the infant into her father’s arms. As the weeping Jean embraces his child, he realizes he must do all that’s possible for his daughter to prosper now that her mother, Ndate, is dead.

The babe is our heroine, Lauren Dufort, who grows to be a stunning young lady.

The Plot


Photo by form PxHere

Lauren Dufort, Our Heroine

After the opening, Lauren stands on the docks of Le Havre, about to set sail to the Caribbean with her new husband, Roget. Patricia Vaughn weaves in and out of the “present” and the past with flashbacks for the reader to relive Lauren’s and Roget’s whirlwind romance.

Lauren’s father was not wealthy, but he worked hard to send her to a fine boarding school. There, Lauren feels like an outsider due to her poor station. Although she has a friend or two, her only joy is learning to play the piano, and she becomes an accomplished performer.

Soon after Lauren leaves school, her father passes away. She goes to live with his sister, Claude, who runs a popular hôtel. Claude throws lavish parties that attract an eclectic array of customers.

The older woman loves her niece dearly but knows Lauren’s future holds few possibilities for happiness. As mulâtresse with soft seal-brown curls, honey-gold skin, and hazel eyes, Lauren is stunning. Nevertheless, her racial heritage precludes her from meeting a marriageable man of quality.

So Lauren uses her talent as a pianist to support herself in her white aunt’s hôtel. It is only during those moments that Lauren does find that elusive happiness.

An Unlikely Proposal of Love

When alive, Jean Dufort had bemoaned the unfairness of his daughter’s few opportunities, despite her beauty, excellent manners, and good education. If Lauren had been male, more avenues would have been open to her in French Society (as had been for the biracial grandson of a slave, Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, and for his son as well).

But as a mixed-race black woman, much of polite Society was closed to her.

One night a handsome, elegant man dressed in finery and accompanied by gentlemanly friends comes to the hôtel. Transfixed, he watches Lauren perform. She, too, is immediately enchanted by this glorious male and hopes he returns to see her perform again.

The gentleman does just that and introduces himself to Lauren as Roget de Martier of Haiti.

Roget and Lauren cannot deny their attraction to one another. He sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and they hastily marry. Lauren is on cloud nine, ecstatic and in love, thinking little of the world she leaves behind as she and Roget set sail for his plantation home.


Photo by form PxHere

Arrival in The Land of High Mountains

At first, Lauren is excited to see Villa de Martier and only dreams of the pleasure she and her husband will share there.

However, beneath the affluent exterior of the plantation lies a troubled family history. Roget has two brothers, the older and menacing Gaston–who is married to the well-pedigreed Reinette–and the younger, effete, and very unmarried Antoine. Also residing at Villa de Martier is their mother, Madame de Martier, a widow of eleven years, whose secret drinking habit is perhaps the worst-kept of the family’s many secrets.

As the second son of one of Haiti’s most prominent families, Roget shocks everyone when he introduces his bride–a mulatto with no name or fortune–to Haitian Society. Due to her origins as a daughter of an African slave and a French nobody, Lauren finds herself ostracized by the class-conscious elite.

Moreover, she struggles against Roget’s overbearing relatives. Lauren is used as a pawn in the games of familial strife. Far from finding a loving home, evil lurks everywhere at Villa de Martier. There is hostility from all corners, although she finds an ally in Antoine, who has his own secrets.

And then there is Lucienne, Roget’s erstwhile lover. Or is she still his current mistress?

The Specter of le Diable

Within the Haitian nights’ darkness is the creeping specter of demonic elements. Is someone using voodoo to harm the family? When unpredictable deaths hit close to home, the danger must be rooted in occult forces!

As troubles set in, a divide grows between Lauren and the husband she desperately adores. She experiences Roger’s cold neglect even as she carries out her assigned duties at the plantation. This estrangement allows for lust-crazed Gaston to do his worst to Lauren.

Yes, the heroine is raped in this book–not just by her lecherous brother-in-law. Later, a furious Roget brutally forces himself upon his adoring wife, proving that he, too, is as monstrous as dark creatures that dwell within the jungle depths.

Lauren’s determination and faith in what is right keep her motivated. She can forgive her husband’s ill-use of her; she can overlook his infidelities. However, she cannot live with his contempt and lack of love for her.

Roget avoids her and lets others oppress her. Yet Lauren is unwilling to abandon her love for him. She vows to conquer the demons that haunt him and reclaim their passion.

Can she uncover the heart of the mysteries that haunt the Villa de Martier? And can she make her marriage a lasting, happy one, despite all the obstacles they face?

A devastating force of nature eventually drives home the reality of life: that all things must come to their eventual end.

Heat Level

Although there are numerous love scenes (let’s not mention those instances of forcible rape) in Murmur of Rain, they are not explicit in detail. Instead, the scenes focus on emotion and intensity.

Steam Factor: Not Tropical like Haitian Summers, but Warm like French Springs.

patricia vaughn

My Opinion

A Tiny Quibble

Murmur of Rain is lovely, although not without flaws. Perhaps Vaughn’s euphemistic writing is a bit florid during the love scenes. Like any good Gothic/Bodice Ripper author, she peppers her sentences with a heaping helping of adjectives.

I didn’t mind any of this, as a well-told story beats technically perfect writing any day. It just needed a teeny bit of trimming to be perfect. None of that changed my perception of this beautiful Gothic-Bodice-Ripper-Black-romance.

And Now A Hefty Dose of Praise

Vaughn’s attention to detail brings the exotic and lush world of Haiti and France to life. She delves deep into cultural nuances, political systems, economy, and Society while also exploring the disparities between wealthy sectors and those with fewer means.

Readers learn about other important aspects of Haitian cultures, such as slavery practices and how men of European heritage had mistresses and “wives” through the Plaçage system. We see why Haiti’s rainforests were destroyed to produce lumber, leaving the land vulnerable to floods and depleted of essential nutrients for farming.

I loved reading how the sweet Lauren drew the cultured and enigmatic Roget de Martier under her spell with her music. She was so content on the ship as they sailed to Haiti, believing in a bright future where nothing could upset their joy.

But if there’s “insta-luv” in the opening chapters, the story must have exciting conflict to make it worthwhile. Well, there certainly is here!

Despite many obstacles, Lauren is unwilling to abandon her love for Roget and vows to conquer the demons that haunt him and the danger that permeates Villa de Martier.

The plot is full of mystery, causing one to wonder why Roget behaves as he does. Only little by little is the truth revealed. All in all, this is an exciting and unputdownable read.

Murmur of Rain is a must-read for those who love epic historical novels that feature heroines with grit, many twists and turns, plus themes that examine some darker aspects of human relationships.

brown rope tangled and formed into heart shape on brown wooden rail

Final Analysis of Murmur of Rain

Like the exceptional Teresa Denys, Patricia Vaughn only published two historical romances. Both ladies’ books are out-of-print, hard to find, and a bit pricey if you do. Murmur of Rain is worth getting if you can.

The Gothic tone, the bodice-ripper elements, the delicate yet resilient heroine, the vivid characterization, the attention to historical attitudes and details, and the intense love story combined to make a remarkable and compelling tale—a powerful testament to Patricia Vaughn’s skills as a novice author.

Simply put, Murmur of Rain is a must-read for anyone who loves a captivating and emotionally charged romance.

“You make love like a demimondaine, fall on your face like a school girl, and still manage to behave like a lady in the salon. My ancestors will probably rise from their graves…but ma chérie, I would not trade you for all the black gold in Haiti. I want to live with you, make love with you, fight with you, and die with you…if our Father in heaven so desires.”

Lauren’s graceful fingers closed around his, and as their hands clung to each other in an embrace, Lauren knew heaven had granted him that wish.

Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn
Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


He gave her an illustrious name, a vast plantation, and a steamy paradise…but at which price? In the lush tropics, a mysterious family, intrigue, and sinister forces threaten to tear apart a love beyond compare…

For a young woman with limited marriage prospects, Paris in the 1890s was hardly an easy place to survive. But Lauren Dufort, headstrong, lovely, and bursting with life, could rely on her exquisite gift as a pianist to sustain herself. When her fingers alight into a moving rhapsody, Lauren is the enchantress…until one evening she draws a man into her spell who will change her life forever.

Cultured, enigmatic, strong and sensuous as a panther, Roget de Martier sends Lauren into a furious tumult of passion, introducing her to an exotic world far across the sea. But beneath the opulent exterior of the Villa de Martier lies a troubling family history and a menacing cast of characters with a penchant for evil.

Caught in a web of familial decay, ostracized from the class-conscious elite, Lauren is soon cut off from her beloved husband who has apparently deceived her. Unable to abandon so powerful a love, Lauren vows to conquer the demons that haunt her husband and reclaim the passion and the glory that is theirs alone…

Murmur of Rain by Patricia Vaughn
smoke in the wind len goldberg

Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

category romance
Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1104
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald


The Book

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

Your mileage may vary, as I have a weird penchant for these kinds of crazy stories–when they’re done right. Smoke in the Wind is one of them.

The Characters and the Set-Up

The reason this so-called hero didn’t detract from the story was the refreshingly capable heroine, Venetia Gamble (what a great name!), who had tons of fortitude. Alas, not enough for her to dump the porcine swine and get with a better man.

Venetia is a hot up-and-coming news reporter in New Zealand. Ryan Fraine, a famous documentary filmmaker, is in the Land of White Clouds looking to set up a new TV station. When these two high-powered professionals meet, the temperature is off the charts.

Venetia had been hurt in love before. At only 23, she has a failed marriage behind her. After getting pregnant at 17, her guardians–her aunt and uncle–forced her and her boyfriend into a shotgun wedding. The marriage ended not long after she miscarried the baby. Despite that, she and her ex-husband are on friendly terms.

Ryan is a bachelor who has pumped and dumped every Kiwi beauty from Cape Reinga to Wellington to Bluff. (Impressed with my geographical skills? It’s easy when you have the internet!) He’s a typical Robyn Donald hero, a sexist bigot sizzling with sensual intensity and irresistible to women.

Venetia is a well-adjusted human being, confident in her sexuality. Nevertheless, she’s wary of his “love ’em and leave ’em” reputation.

Ryan sizes up Venetia and thinks because she’s not a virgin: “She’s a very kinky girl/ The kind you don’t take home to mother…”

Venetia tells him she’s not into one-night stands, so Ryan translates that into: “She’s up for a steaming hot, quick fling.”

And Venetia can’t resist him. They’re at it every which way, and though Venetia is gaga for Ryan, our girl plays it cool.

The Plot

Part One

Venetia’s pretense of indifference fools Ryan. It turns out he’s a shallow guy for whom only surface-level appearances matter. Venetia’s relationship with Ryan turns dark when his true colors–fish belly white–begin to show.

He is looking for a wife, just not Venetia in that role. Our girl is perfect for bedroom fun, but she’ll never as the mother of his little Ryans and Ryanas.

You see, Mr. sex on legs has mommy issues as his mother was a businesswoman, i.e., a bad mother who had no time for babies, and his childhood left him traumatized. The dude has a deep-seated hatred towards working women, believing they make poor wives and mothers.

So he will be dumping Venetia in the near future. Very near.

Venetia is an orphan who had been raised by her traditionalist aunt and uncle and grew up with her younger cousin, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looks similar to Venetia but is the polar opposite in personality. She’s a “sweet” girl with no plans for an icky career, the kind a man like Ryan would take home to meet his family and be proud to call wife.

In actuality, Liz isn’t so sweet at all because when she comes with her family to visit Venetia and meets Ryan, she flutters her eyes at him in feigned innocence, and ball-brains Ryan falls for it. Within weeks, the two-timing scum sucker tells Venetia their “relationship” is over, and he’s marrying sweet Liz.

Venetia is left heartbroken–and pregnant. She quits her job and moves to Australia to live with her grandmother.

Venetia isn’t bitter with the hand she’s dealt. It is what it is.

“I won’t allow you to treat me as if I was an illness you can’ be vaccinated against, she said with an icy composure which hid her fear and despair.

“You won’t be able to stop me,” he said quietly, not bothering to mute the threat. “Because we both know I could take you on that kitchen table if I wanted to. And I do want to.”

Part Two

Years later, Elizabeth passes away. After a period of mourning, Venetia’s aunt and uncle let their beloved son-in-law know of his secret son with Venetia. Oh, yes, those two knew! Like their amoral dead daughter, they did everything to keep Ryan at their Liz’s side.

Ryan flies out to Australia to claim his child and reignite his relationship with Venetia.

In Australia, Venetia had been raising their son John and had a flourishing career as a novelist. When Ryan demands what’s his, she’s shaken but fights with all her iron will.

But Ryan will not be deterred. he knows their sexual bond was never severed and uses it to his benefit.

Despite his ruthless behavior, Ryan is self-aware, and his intense reactions toward Venetia stem from his inability to control his feelings for her. His marriage to Elizabeth wasn’t exactly what he wanted, even if he had thought it was. A man like Ryan thrived on passion, Elizabeth was just blech. Ryan married Liz because he saw her as a more idealized version of the sexually-secure working woman he rejected. Ryan’s strict standards for a partner stem from his unresolved mommy issues.

His desire–his love–for Venetia conflicts with all his self-imposed beliefs.

Meanwhile, Venetia’s grandmother is a supportive and wise character who adds depth to the story and provides a voice of reason amidst the chaos.

There’s a scene where Venetia bump into her ex at a dance, and they spend a pleasant time together, making me think, “Wouldn’t it have been a nice twist if she ended up with him?”

But no, Ryan is too vital a force to be ignored. One issue I had is Ryan never really expresses regret for his marriage to Liz. She was not emotionally deep, but she was genuine in her love for him, so he was content to have made her happy for a few years. (This made me want to throw an egg at Ryan, but almost 50 cents an egg right now, I wouldn’t waste valuable protein for a smeg head like him.)

Ryan’s cruelty towards the vulnerable Venetia is both riveting and gut-wrenching. Venetia is a fearless and determined woman who refuses to let Ryan break her spirit… Even as he captures her in the end. So, it’s mostly a happy ending, right?

In the end, Ryan acknowledges his feelings for Venetia, that he loves her. He fought against it because of inhibitions and childhood trauma.

“You wear your independence like a banner. I like to look at you and know that I can kiss you free of it any time I want to. It’s like owning my own small falcon that comes only to my hand, and gives up her freedom only for me.”

Final Analysis of Smoke in the Wind

Smoke in the Wind is a terrible romance but a riveting read that will leave you breathless. Ryan is par-for-the-course as far as Robyn Donald’s heroes go. (Okay, maybe one of her top 5 worst heroes. She really knew how to write a lot of dickhead male main characters.)

The dominant/submissive dynamic between Ryan and Venetia is both intense and fascinating. Venetia is strong and resilient, overcoming her traumatic past and standing up for herself. The plot is well-crafted, with twists and turns that kept me engaged, even as I despised Ryan.

It’s Venetia who makes this Harlequin Presents shine. Ryan is both vicious and self-aware, reflecting the depth of his inner turmoil. Despite his porcine nature, he is a well-written, complicated, and intriguing character.

Ryan and Venetia’s sexual relationship is as extreme as the muted BD/SM powerplay in Harlequins can be, a dominant/submissive one, with Ryan exerting his control over Venetia.

Smoke in the Wind is a roller coaster ride of emotions, with a heroine who is capable and determined to overcome the challenges life throws at her. Despite Ryan’s cruel actions, Venetia refuses to be a victim and rises above the situation, proving that the heart can survive enormous pain.

Overall, Smoke in the Wind is a must-read for fans of intense, passionate romance. The multi-faceted characters, thrilling plot, and nail-biting drama make this an HPLandia stand out.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.3


Her response to him was frightening… Venetia Gamble had felt desire before. The result? Such a disastrous marriage that she felt she wanted never to experience desire again. And she hadn’t–until now. Ryan Fraine, famous documentary filmmaker, was in New Zealand to set up a new television station.

From the moment they met, Venetia, herself a TV reporter, knew this man could make her suffer as she never had before. So she shied away from his blazing sensuality. Yet there was something else, something in the very core of her soul that wouldn’t permit escape…. 

defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey


The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while—except for maybe Jude Deveraux—there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s and 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that—with few exceptions—were all fun reads. Many of them rank among my all-time favorite romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, blathering on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Often, the heroines could be so argumentative and stubborn that I wanted to shake them.

Even so, I loved her plots that featured close proximity, kidnapping, and forced marriages. They had heroes who were arrogant, charmingly domineering, and so sexy. These men could treat their heroines like crap one minute, then kill for them, then make passionate love to them, and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place. Then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little Ranulf and Reina interact with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.


The Wonderful Characters


Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord, Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.


Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed! Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice; he didn’t put it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

And the results of his lessons are…memorable. 😋

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model always posing alongside Fabio (I think it’s Lianna Loggins), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Angel, Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Johanna Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, read about these two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

the coach to hell

Gothic Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrave Payes
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1979
Illustrator: Alan Reingold
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Gothic Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes


The Book

The Coach to Hell was a bit of a disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes‘ Moment of Desire. That book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind.

This book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.

The Setup

The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home.

Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it.

Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.

The Plot

She heads to a far-away town to seek out a distant cousin in hopes that he will care for her, a relative in need. On the coach ride to her new environs, Georgina meets a dashing red-haired coachman whom she falls for.

However, well-meaning fellow passengers warn her that he’s the love-them-and-leave-them type, with different women in every village. Georgie ignores their advice and engages in a secret love affair.

The hero, Charles Collins, supposedly has lots of sex appeal (I didn’t see it here.) but no fortune, as he is the bastard son of a nobleman. He believes he is legitimate, however. Charles is working as a coachman to save money to hire a barrister.

He tells Georgina that the relative she’s going to live with is his younger half-brother, Francis, his father’s legal heir. Charles is convinced there must be some shenanigans afoot. Our Coachman to Hell is certain he– not his brother–is the true inheritor of the manor and title.

Charles and Georgie get down with each other, and he sweet-talks her into promising to search for any information that will prove his claim. Georgie vows to do her best.

Her best is… Well, you’ll see.

So the Lord of a half-brother is also a charismatic hunk (I definitely saw it here.) and lives openly with his mistress, who’s naturally contemptuous of Georgina. If Georgie would say the word, he’d gladly throw his courtesan aside to have Georgina instead.

But Georgie has her dashing coachman and wouldn’t dream of being unfaithful to her beloved.

No, I’m just joking. Remember, this is a 1970s Playboy Press bodice ripper!

One Hell of a Crazy Scene

Back in her hometown, when some creepy old dude had wanted her to be his mistress, Georgie’s upstanding morals wouldn’t have allowed such dishonor. Now, things are different.

Yes, she’s in love with a young, handsome dude, but she’s living with his equally hot and much richer brother…

Morals? Pffft. That’s for poor people who don’t live in fancy manors.

The best part of Coach to Hell is when Georgina has Charles in her room for a late-night tryst. Then his brother enters her chambers with the same intention, forcing Charles to hide in her wardrobe.

Georgina can’t shoo Francis away by being smart enough to say she’s on her period. So while Charles–the hero–conceals himself in the closet like some teenage boy hiding from an angry father, Georgie–the heroine–bangs Francis–not the hero–in her bed!

And Francis is so good at making love that Georgina forgets everything and moans away in ecstasy, giving our sad-sack hero something extra-special to listen to.

As this book is a bodice-ripper, Charles is our supposed “Alpha” male hero. So does he burst out into the room and kill them both in a blind rage? Does he trounce his bro for messing with his woman?

Nope. Charles stays there, sitting and sulking, while his hated enemy joyously screws the woman he loves, bringing her to orgasmic heights.

Did the Scene Redeem the Book?

This scene was so WTF and made me wish that The Coach to Hell had fully embraced its campy nature and included more juicy bits like this!

After that, I admit I lost all respect for the hero. I certainly didn’t expect him to go all wifebeater on Georgina, but he at least could have punched the lights out of Francis.

Unfortunately, I can’t root for a cucked hero, so I just read to get to the end of the story.

tales of ribaldry cuckold
SOURCE: NBC Saturday Night Live “Tales of Ribaldry”

Moving on, then.

This Book Finally Ends!

Remember Georgina’s special kind of ESP? Well, it served the plot’s purpose. She’s able to find the secret evidence that proves Charles’ legitimacy.

You didn’t actually think Charles wasn’t the real Lord, did you?

Oh no, I gave away the ending!

Look, if you’re reading these cheesy romances, you know they’re supposed to end “Happily Ever After”–no matter how discombobulated the path to “Ever After” is.

Final Analysis of The Coach to Hell

I do wish I had enjoyed The Coach to Hell more, but Georgina was just too stupid for words.

I lost any admiration for Charles after he was ignominiously crowned with a set of horns. Instead, I rooted for his brother from another mother to get the girl.

Ultimately, this Rachel Cosgrove-Payes Gothic/ Bodice Ripper romance was a so-so read. It was memorable, alright, but for the wrong reasons.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.3


Rescued from poverty to live in an opulent mansion filled with servants…loved by two adventurous and passionate men…Georgina’s new life was wantonly wonderful. But she was caught between her arrogant benefactor and his rakehell coachman brother — and their fierce obsession threatened to shatter everything. Each man claimed to be the rightful heir to a noble title. Each man thought Georgina knew the secret location of the missing proof. And though each man already possessed Georgina’s body — each demanded more…

while passion sleeps bennett

Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

historical romance review
While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Reluctant Brides #3, Louisiana #8
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 486
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee


The Book

While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee made me feel really old. It wasn’t the plot or the characters; it was the actual book itself.

This just-under-500-pages epic is printed in a tiny font on yellowed paper (my edition is 38 years old). Reading it strained my eyes something awful. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, but now things up close are getting blurry. I’ll be going to the eye doctor this week for a new Rx because I need bifocals. *Sigh.* Damn you, the passage of time!

The Hero

Speaking of the passage of time, While Passion Sleeps features a macho hero who would be booed out of Romancelandia if he were to appear in a romance novel today. Rafael Santana, who’s one tough Texan (1/4 American, 1/4 Comanche, and 1/2 Spanish), was kidnapped by the Comanches as a child. He lived with them for years before being rescued by his Spanish relatives.

He is a savage man, torn between two worlds, as he never fully adjusted to polite society. A forced marriage to a cold-hearted woman and several fleeting sexual affairs have jaded Rafael’s perspective about females.

Women were such deceptive little bitches, [Rafael] thought viciously as he kicked his horse into a gallop. They had faces like angels and bodies to drive men wild, and yet they lie, cheated, and would merrily rip a man’s heart from his body for the sheer joy of watching him writhe.

Besides being a founding member of “The He-Man Women’s Hater Club,” he’s capable of and has committed extreme violence:

“I was 12 the first time I went on a raid & yes, I did enjoy it,” Rafael interrupted coolly. “I was 13 when I stole my first horse and scalped my first white man and a year later, I raped my first woman and took my first captive. By the time I was 17, I was raiding w/ the warriors for over five years; I owned fifty horses, had my own buffalo skin teepee, three slaves of my own & several scalps taken by my hand decorated my lance.”

(I can hear the clacking sound of myriad strings of pearls being clutched by the “How dare you!” crowd.)

The Heroine

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is the heroine Beth. A beautiful violet-eyed, platinum-haired Englishwoman (Are there really women who naturally look like that in real life? I’ve yet to see one.), Beth is forced to marry a profligate gambler who drinks too much. Her noble father has no use for her now that he has a new wife and son.

Nathan Ridgeway is handsome and not that bad of a guy despite his errant ways. The problem is Nathan has “teh ghey” and try and try as he might, he just can’t get a chubby for his sweet 16-year-old bride. Only hot, young men will do it for him and Beth ain’t that.

Dismayed at first by the inability to consummate their marriage, he and Beth fall into a contented, platonic arrangement, where Beth capably mages the household affairs. At the same time, Nathan not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours. A whiff of potential scandal hits the air, so the pair hightail it off to the United States to make a new life for themselves.

They move to Louisiana, then later to Mississippi, where eventually Beth, the super-perfect woman, manages a huge plantation that turns a tidy profit, while Nathan again not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours.

while passion sleep ebook

The Plot

Part One

Let’s rewind a bit to their time in Louisiana. There at a ball, Beth’s shimmering violet eyes met the passionate smoky-gray gaze of Rafael Santana. The attraction was instantaneous, leading Rafael to make a crude proposition. Of course, Beth wanted nothing to do with the married Rafael, being an honorable married woman herself, even if her marriage was not quite a “marriage.”

Rafael’s wife was jealous of the pair and arranged for Rafael’s cousin to rape a drugged Beth, then have Rafael come upon the scene. Moments before the cousin could do the deed, an enraged Rafael enters the room, catching what he believes are two lovers in flagrante delicto.

Furious that another man had his way with Beth yet enchanted by her naked body, Rafael becomes maddened with lust. Under the influence of intoxicants, Beth’s only sensation is desire.

She begs Rafael to take her, which he eagerly does. Thinking he’s having sloppy seconds and in a state of anger, somehow Rafael fails to notice that Beth’s a virgin, even though her hymen is still intact. (I always question when this sort of thing happens in romances: how can a man who’s been around the entire neighborhood not notice the major resistance a hymen makes upon entry? These heroes just plow through like it’s made of wet tissue paper.)

Part Two

After their one night of passion, Beth flees in shame. She and Rafael don’t see each other until four years later when Beth decides to travel through Texas to visit an old friend. But, when they meet again, their lust can’t be controlled, and they go at it again. And again. And again!

Rafael’s wife is now dead, and he thinks Beth is a shameless adulteress, beguiling innocent men with her beauty. I’ve never read Gypsy Lady, but for those of you who have, it’s interesting to note that Sebastian, the son of that book’s protagonists, is featured in While Passion Sleeps as Rafael’s cousin. He, too, is mad about the lovely Beth.

Sebastian is the only one who knows the true nature of Beth’s marriage, having witnessed Nathan in bed in the arms of another man. He vows to save Beth from her phony marriage and make her his bride.

Sebastian’s illusions are shattered in a powerful scene after he catches Beth and Rafael in an embrace. Rafael and Sebastian, who are good friends, almost come to blows until Rafael claims Beth is his mistress. Sebastian leaves the field to his cousin; his heart is broken.

Never having felt such deep emotion for a woman before, Rafael is conflicted. Not only is his cousin in love with Beth, but she also had a husband to contend with. Ultimately, he decides to make Beth his and his alone. No matter what, passion will find a way.

An Aside: Language Lesson

I did have an issue with the bad Spanish in While Passion Sleeps.

Rafael’s wife is named Consuela; it should be Consuelo.

Also, Rafael refers to Beth as “mi cara,” which means “my face.” Instead, it should be “querida” as “cara” is Italian for “my beloved.” I’ve seen that mistake so often in older romances when the hero speaks Spanish, especially in Harlequins. Fortunately, Rafael doesn’t call her that too often, preferring to call Beth his “English.”

Please permit me to go over this for a moment. Any romance reader worth their salt should know how to say this to a woman in multiple languages. There are many ways to say “my beloved,” “my dear,” or “my love” in various languages, but here in random order, are the ones I know off the top of my head:

  • Cariad – Welsh
  • Querida – Spanish & Portuguese
  • Cara – Italian
  • Chère – French
  • Habibti (or Habibi) – Arabic
  • Stór – Irish
  • Liebling – German
  • Agápi – Greek
  • Elsket – Norweigian

Okay, the language lesson is over.

My Opinion

Except for my eyes squinting in vain to read the words, While Passion Sleeps was an enjoyable ride. It is a bodice ripper that spans continents and years and has lots of steamy love scenes and plenty of violence. That’s enough for me to like it.

There are times when this book lags, especially during the first half when Beth and Rafael don’t spend much time with each other. For some reason, Busbee went into extreme detail over the most unimportant things, like Beth and her husband traveling from New Orleans to Texas or about Comanche & Texas history. The editing could have been tighter.

Beth and Rafael had crazy, intense chemistry. You feel the heat coming off the pages whenever they are together. The love scenes, while a bit lavender, were sexy as hell. But… that’s all they have.

They don’t really converse, don’t go through shared experiences (except for towards the end), heck they don’t even argue that much. They have sex every chance they get when they’re alone. I would have preferred more time spent together bonding emotionally than physically.

A Mustache Aside

Also, for some reason, I imagined Rafael with a mustache. Busbee makes no mention of one. Yet after reading this scene:

“Let me,” he muttered, roughly. “You are as beautiful there as anywhere, and I want the taste of you on my mouth, the scent of you in my nostrils. Let me!”

I couldn’t picture him without a flavor-saver on his face! Usually, mustaches are a turn-off. However, imagining Rafael as Mexican actor Mauricio Islas, one of the few men who can pull it off, made it all good.

while passion sleeps
Mauricio Islas as Rafael… yummy!

Until I pictured another face. With the show The Mandalorian in the news lately, for some reason, Mauricio’s image kept morphing into actor Pedro Pascal. Nothing against Pedro. He just looks exactly like my cousin Felix! Nice-looking enough, but he’s not my idea of a brutal lover and killer whose cold, pale eyes barely hide the passions which simmer beneath the surface.

while passion sleeps
Pedro Pascal (aka my cousin Felix) as Rafael… Nope!

That’s just my baggage. I’ve got to stop imagining actors as heroes. When the cover (sadly) fell off While Passion Sleeps, I had no guy to look at and did some head casting.

Final Analysis of While Passion Sleeps

This is the third Shirlee Busbee I’ve read and definitely the best of the bunch. While Passion Sleeps has a hero you either love or hate. I loved him in all his pigheaded, dark alpha-ness.

Beth grows as a character. She transforms from a naïve, biddable housewife stuck in a loveless union to a fiery spitfire who endures trauma and hardship.

If Busbee had tightened the manuscript a bit more by reducing the filler and adding more emotionally intimate scenes between Beth and Rafael, this would have been amazing. As it is, it’s still a very gripping read, even if, at times, I did skim a page or two.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4


THE LADY: Beth Ridgeway was a violet-eyed platinum beauty — the kind of woman who made men burn with desire. Yet her husband Nathan didn’t want her…

THE ROGUE: Rafael Santana, the darkly handsome and arrogant son of a wealthy Texas family, had been kidnapped by the Comanches and raised as a warrior. Even now, all his gentleman’s breeding couldn’t conceal the savage strength beneath his aristocratic bearing.

THE FURY: Beth thought he was cruel and insensitive, a man who used women only for his selfish pleasure and then tossed them away. Rafael thought she was a common wench — flirtatious and unfaithful — who took pride in breaking men’s hearts.

THE FIRE: Yet something had happened when their eyes first met at a dazzling New Orleans ball. Something their hearts could not deny, something neither the years nor the violent misunderstandings could diminish. Because for the first time, both Beth and Rafael were awakening to the magnificent passions of love.