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Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey


The Book

Hearts Aflame is a notable Johanna Lindsey historical romance for a few reasons.

Back in June 1987, John Le Carre, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Robert Ludlum, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek were on the NY Times Weekly Bestseller list for paperbacks. Also in the top ten? Jude Deveraux’s The Raider and Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame at #3.

Spy thrillers, mysteries, science & women’s fiction were always big hits, but for many years, it was hard to see more than one romance novel numbering near the top. With her 14th book, Lindsey was on a roll, writing blockbuster romance after blockbuster romance.

Readers of this blog and fans of Lindsey might be familiar with Hearts Aflame, as it contains two hallmarks of her books. First (no longer was Robert McGinnis illustrating) was “The Queen of Romance Covers” herself, Elaine Duillo painting the artwork.

Second, this book featured romance supermodel Fabio posing for the clinch. This was one of–if not the–first romance front cover for the Italian-born hunk.

The Background

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey is the sequel to her third book, the bodice ripper Fires of Winter. In it, the beautiful Welsh Lady Brenna finds her life torn asunder when Vikings raid her home.

They kill all the men and take the women captive. Brenna is given as a prize to the Viking chief’s son, Garrick.

After a very rocky beginning, Garrick and Brenna find love together.

The heroine of Hearts Aflame, Kristen, is their daughter. She is as fierce and strong as both her parents.

The Plot

With her many Viking brothers and cousins, young Kristen has always desired an adventure as they claimed to have experienced. In search of action, she stows away on their raiding ship.

The raid is a failure when the Vikings are beaten and taken hostage by the Saxons, led by the arrogant Thane Royce.

Kristen is dressed as a male, and her kinsmen guard her true identity. But soon, the nature of her sex is discovered by Royce. Royce forces her to serve as his personal house slave. He places Kristen in chains when she refuses and finds her will is unbreakable.

From there on, the relationship between Royce and Kristen is a power play of master and slave, captor and captive, man and woman.

Kristen is not a simpering dame, as her actions prove. Although Royce is a powerful leader and tries to master her, it’s she who proves to be the real mistress.

Speaking of mistresses, Royce has one; a rare instance in a Lindsey romance where the hero beds the other woman. But no fear, her simpering nature proves no match for Kristen’s fierce one.

Some evildoers would see Kristen and Royce fall, but Royce shouldn’t worry when Kristen is on his side. She has no qualms about threatening Saxon lords and ladies and can back up her words with fighting skills.

Of course, Kristen and her fellow Vikings are to be avenged by her people, and this leads to a dramatic ending where her parents show up to save them.

Final Analysis of Hearts Aflame

Hearts Aflame is a solid Johanna Lindsey romance, perhaps not in my personal top-tier, but it still was a blast to read.

Kirsten has all the warrior skills of her mother, with her father’s stubborn temper.

Royce is sexy enough, even though Kirsten steals the show. But it’s fun to imagine him looking like Fabio since he was the first Lindsey hero painted by Elaine Duillo.

Fans of Kirsten’s older brother, Selig, will be happy to read his story in Surrender, My Love, the conclusion to Lindsey’s “Haardrad Viking Trilogy.”

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.2


Kristen Haardrad met the icy fury in her captor’s crystal-green gaze with defiance. She was the prisoner of Royce of Wyndhurst, but his slave she’d never be. This powerful Saxon lord had at last met his match in the Viking beauty – his equal in pride, in strength…and in the fierce, hot hunger of insatiable desire. But Kristen could not know the torment that divided his soul; how he ached to hold her soft, supple body, thirsted for the ringing joy of her laughter – yet hated her for an ancient crime that was not her own.

But her golden loveliness drives him mad with desire, her fiery eyes taunting him, compelling him to claim her. Until, in wordless surrender, they cast aside the shackles of doubt and distrust to unite forever in the searing promise of all-consuming love.




List Fiction:

  • 1 A PERFECT SPY, by John le Carre. (Bantam, $4.95.) The tale of a British secret agent and his father, a flamboyant con man.
  • 2 BARRIER ISLAND, by John D. MacDonald. (Fawcett, $4.50.) One man’s effort to thwart a multimillion-dollar land swindle.
  • 3 * HEARTS AFLAME, by Johanna Lindsey. (Avon, $3.95.) A beautiful captive becomes the captor of a handsome thane in the age of the Vikings.
  • 4 ACT OF WILL, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Bantam, $4.95.) Three generations of talented, ambitious women in England and New York.
  • 5 THE GOOD MOTHER, by Sue Miller. (Dell, $4.95.) A woman’s attachment to her daughter becomes a consuming passion.
  • 6 TAMING A SEA-HORSE, by Robert B. Parker. (Dell, $4.50.) Spenser tracks a young woman through the seamy byways of a pleasure empire.
  • 7 THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Del Rey/Ballantine, $4.95.) Mankind’s first encounter with life in a paradisaical world.
  • 8 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, by Robert Ludlum. (Bantam, $4.95.) A plot to seize Hong Kong and bring China into conflict with the West.
  • 9 THE RAIDER, by Jude Deveraux. (Pocket, $3.95.) Rebels, Red Coats, and love in colonial New England.
  • 10 DREAMS OF THE RAVEN, by Carmen Carter. (Pocket, $3.50.) In this Star Trek novel, Captain Kirk faces a nightmarish enemy. 


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the lord of hawkfell island

Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

historical romance review
The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Viking Lords Series #2
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 403
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter


Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her so-called romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.

The Plot

Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him. Their Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child.

Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rorik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”

I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar.

I detested him so much that I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.

Rorik kidnaps Mirana as a hostage, not out of lust, but because he’s on the boys’ team and Mirana’s on the girls’ team, and boys are supposed to torment icky girls because boys rule and girls drool.

Rorik, The Viking Philosopher

Although externally Rorik has the appearance of a strong, 30-something Viking warrior, his demeanor is that of a gangly 10-year-old-boy who’s on the verge of adolescence. He thinks girls are gross and stupid, yet gets a weird, tingly feeling whenever a particular one is around.

So instead of reacting like a mature, well-adjusted male to that particular sow (or female) who gets him hornt up, our hero spouts insults like:

“I told you that my men really have no interest in you. You’re skinny, not at all appetizing. A man would have to be starving for a woman before he would turn his eyes to you.”

Saying mean things to Mirana alone wouldn’t merit Rurik a place at the Big Pigs’ table, though. Sure, he gets naked and bathes in front of her, taunting her in an “I-know-you-want-me-but-you-cannot-have-me-so-look-at-how-hot-I-am” sort of way. That’s cute.

He also threatens to sic his dog on her:

 “I’ll have my dog kill you. He’s vicious. He protects me and my island.”

Rorik accuses Mirana of incest (and being damn good at it): 

“Do you lust after him, your own kin? Is that why you’re still unwed? Perhaps he has already bedded you. You aren’t young, after all. Does he hold you above his other whores?”

He chains her up with heavy iron links–no cloth under the metal to protect her skin–and keeps her that way for days on end, deprives her of food, beats her, and neglects her. Later he gets more brutally physical, punching Mirana in the jaw, stepping on her throat, and whipping her!

So, to sum up: Rorik abducts Mirana, tells her she’s so ugly no man would sleep with her, except her brother, of course, threatens her with murder and rape, abuses her, tortures her, and spouts Schwarzenneggerian brilliance as:

“The man rules. It is he who protects the woman, he who provides shelter and food for her. It is his right to bed with a bear if he wishes to. It is I who am the lord here, and all obey!”

He’s a beast, all right. Well, charisma goes a long way, thank goodness.

Alas, Rorik has zero charisma to back up his nasty demeanor.

So What’s To Like?

Then, why didn’t I one-star this book if the hero is so loathsome?

For one thing, Mirana gives back as good as she can. She’s a solid character who deserves a better man. How about her evil brother? 😉

And second, it’s kind of funny if you can disassociate from it all. Rorik is so childlike in his hatred for Mirana. I’m surprised he didn’t wipe his boogers on her or play “I’m not touching you” with his finger hovering an inch from her face.

Sure the guy’s a looker, and he’s lord of an island, but with his protozoan personality, who wants him?

Sleeping with Rorik would be akin to doing it with Colleen McCullough’s “Tim,” inhabited by the spirit of “South Park”‘s Eric Cartman on D-Bal Max.






Sisterly Love

Ultimately, what pulls this book together has nothing to do with romance. It’s all due to Mirana and a supporting cast of female characters who forge a strong network of relationships They help each other grow and thrive in a world that’s brutal and unfair.

On the one hand, we have Rorik and his dopey gang of followers with their collective IQ & EQs of (I’ll be generous) 105.

On the other hand, we have the Hawkfell Island women’s team.

The central theme is all about “The Battle of the Sexes.”

Caring for Mirana is a servant woman, Utta, married to one of Rorik’s men. A beautiful yet simple slave girl named Entti is treated as a bounce house for the Vikings to play with, and she gets no respect. The women unite to get back at the men in ways they can, like giving them inedible food and refusing sex.

After a while, the men determine that Mirana’s behind the women’s uppitiness. Rorik attempts to rein her in. He decides he will marry Mirana and control her through force of will.

Mirana, for some reason, develops feelings for the Neanderthal.

At last, Rorik and Mirana share something in common: love for Rorik. INow, there’s a match made in Valhalla!

When the men get fed up with the women’s antics, they threaten Mirana with all kinds of bodily harm. Rorik does nothing to stop it.

He spouts perplexing threats like: “I will rape you if you force me” when Mirana refuses him his marital rights.

By The Lord of Hawkfell Island’s conclusion, Rorik and Mirana are paired off… because that’s what a romance demands. Rorik remains the same unfeeling brute he was in the beginning.

Final Analysis of The Lord of Hawkfell Island

The kindest, most intimate thing Rorik says to Mirana is:

“You are very nice,” he said forcing his eyes back to her face. “You are pleasing to me.”

If that’s enough to spark your interest, and you have a perverse curiosity to observe an exaggerated caricature of a supreme male chauvinist pig in action, while a crew of much savvier women maneuvers social politics and gender roles, then by all means, take a gander at this book.

Whatever “this” is, that Catherine Coulter wrote.

On a certain level, The Lord of Hawkfell Island is fascinating. I wouldn’t call it a romance, though.

2.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.3


Rorik is a Viking warrior, as fierce and savage as the North Sea during the winter solstice. Mirana is a Viking woman who loves birds, is more ingenious than most men, and loyal down to her toes. Her life changes utterly one fateful day when Rorik and his men come to Clontarf, a Viking fortress on the eastern coast of Ireland, to kill her half-brother. But she is the one taken as hostage to use as a pawn against him.

Rorik is the Lord of Hawkfell, an island off the east cost of Britain. The moment he brings his captive home, it seems that everything begins to fly out his control. The women are out to teach the men a lesson with the result that food is rank, Rorik’s family is out for Mirana’s blood, a murderer is on a loose, and a huge mongrel, Kerzog, dotes not only on his master but also on his master’s captive.

Rorik and Mirana are two strong-willed people, ardent in their opinions, who will have you rooting for both of them equally.

An Offer of Marriage

Historical Romance Review: An Offer of Marriage by Jo Ann Ferguson Review

An Offer of Marriage, Jo Ann Ferguson, Zebra, 1999, cover artist unknown, John Desaalvo cover model


1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Goodbye Old Era, Hello New

Books like Jo Ann Ferguson’s An Offer of Marriage suffer from being published during a time of change. When Kensington’s Zebra historical romances died, they didn’t go quickly (actually, Zebras are still around, but they’re not the same as they used to be in the 1980s and 1990s). Before their Heartfire and Lovegram lines ended in the late 1990s, the iconic, colorful covers became dull mockeries of the past, with no lush illustrations, just cheaply photo-shopped images of flowers or castles. In many cases, the covers were nothing more than the title and author’s name.

Zebra dumped most of their best authors (some briefly moved on to Dorchester, which had their own problems) and churned out new lines like Zebra Ballad, Splendor, and Precious Gem Historicals, all of which folded quickly. An Offer of Marriage is a romance from his era.

The Plot?

Young Brenwyn Gunnarsson’s family is slaughtered and he vows revenge. He poses as a lowly freeman to deceive the English and aid the Viking invasion. English Lady Cyndra, the daughter of Ealdorman Edgar of Manor Saeburgh, is taken by caerl Brenwyn to wed his master, Thane Morcar of Manor Darburgh.

If you were irritated by that last sentence, be wary of An Offer of Marriage, because those phrases will be repeated ad infinitum. Such is the thrilling dialogue in this book:

“I am Lady Cyndra, the daughter of Ealdorman Edgar of Manor Saeburgh.”

“Ealdorman,” he gasped. “That is the highest rank in England, except for the king.”

“And I was betrothed to Thane Morcar of Manor Darburgh.”

“Morcar? Is he Edgar’s father? You said his father was dead.”

“I thought Morcar was dead.”

“Yes you said that. That Thevkil told you. Thevkil the Strong?”


“How did you come to speak to that Viking chieftain?”

“I spoke with him when I was with Edgar’s father to his court…Edgar’s father’s name was Under-Chieftain Brenwyn Gunnarsson. He was a Jomsviking and captured Manor Darburgh. Part of his prize was me.”

 photo boringzzz.jpg

Brenwyn turns the tables on Thane Morcar and takes Cyndra as his own bride. They fall in love and have a child. Cyndra’s father was named Edgar, so she names her son in her father’s memory. Then Cyndra and Brenwyn are separated and…zzz…

Huh? Sorry, was I nodding off again?

Besides the writing, another terrible thing about this book is its title. An Offer of Marriage sounds way too Regency-ish. It should have been My Beloved Enemy (pg. 253) or some similar crap to go with the medieval/Viking theme. Oh well, that was the least of this book’s offenses.

Nor, Sir, I Don’t Like it

Passionless books like this are why the historical genre lost its popularity to paranormals. And paranormals seemed to have lost their popularity to New Adult/50 Shades of BDSM. Wonder what’s the next thing? Perhaps well-written, sensual yet tawdry, plot-and-action driven, non-wallpaper historicals, with amazing, painted covers will make a comeback? (I kid, I kid!)

When I read a tepid historical romance published in the 21st century, I shrug it off. The new style isn’t my thing. But when I read a sucky historical written when old-school historicals were in their death throes, it makes me sad.

I used way too many words to describe this book. Simply put, this was dull, dull, dull.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s ask others what they feel.

 photo boringchoice.jpg

Baby, what did you think?

 photo boringbaby.jpg

And kitty, how about you?

 photo boringcat.jpg

Puppy, do you agree?

 photo boringpuppy.jpg

That’s it, a full consensus! All the pics I’ve stolen off the net agree. This book was:

 photo boring.jpg

Reviewed by Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri

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


5 Stars

The Book

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

Sea Jewel a 5-Star Read, Albeit a Rating I Give Reluctantly

The Story: Part One

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

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

Wilone gave birth to twin boys. One, Farant, was a studious, bookish, quiet individual. The other, Alaric, the “hero” of this book, was more warlike, in particular after finding out what happened to his mother. Alaric vowed revenge on Thorfast and all Danes. He would get his chance many years later.

The Story: Part Two

The book fast forwards. Freya is now the head of her hall, and she, like her sire, pillages English villages. She decides to pillage the same village Thorfast did many years ago, against the advice and admonition of Sven, who is a psychic and envisions, correctly, that the raid Freya is planning will have grave consequences for her. What Freya doesn’t know is that there is a traitor, who informs the English that an attack is coming.

When Freya and her men attack, many are killed and Freya is captured by Alaric. When he finds out who she is, he decides to exact his revenge on her father through her, by raping and dishonoring her the same way her father did his mother. Alaric rapes Freya, although she fights him, and even though he is her master and she his slave, they eventually fall in love!

This relationship draws the ire of two people in particular; Alaric’s sister-in-law and former lover Kendra, who wants Alaric both for his sexual prowess and his money and power. Kendra accuses Freya of two murders that Kendra herself committed. The first time, Kendra has to withdraw her charge after being caught committing adultery. The second time, Kendra kills Farant, and Freya mistakenly believes that it was Alaric who was killed. Freya runs away and faces various perils.

The second person who disapproves of their relationship is Alaric’s uncle, Ordway, who hates all Danes for what Thorfast did to Wilone, who, after seeing her husband and other children killed and being raped, became mentally unstable and now lives out her life in a religious abbey.

The Story: Part Three

After Freya escapes, she finds out that she is with child, and faces various perils as she makes her way back from England to Denmark. Freya eventually returns to Denmark, where she meets up again with her childhood friend, Olaf, who is in love with her and they get married. Freya, however, doesn’t tell Olaf that she’s not in love with him or that she is pregnant with Alaric’s child. This truth, however, eventually comes out. Freya gives birth to twins, a son and daughter, and she and Olaf have a pleasant, if not totally loving, marriage, as he accepts her children despite their not being his by blood.

However, the specter of Freya’s love for Alaric-who she believes to be dead-hangs over their marriage. Olaf later learns that Alaric is not dead, although he doesn’t tell Freya this. He tells the truth after being mortally wounded in another Viking raid on England.

Freya then decides to return to England to be with Alaric, no matter what their relationship status is, and is accosted and imperiled, which Alaric has to rescue her from. They do eventually get married, and Freya becomes a Christian and changes her name to Marissa-the Christian name meaning “of the sea.”

Ordway, however, incensed that Alaric and Freya are marrying, kidnaps the twins and tries to kill them, he dies in a fire at the abbey, but the children survive thanks to Wilone, who saves them the same way she saved Alaric and Farant when they were babies. And they lived happily ever after.


As is the case with all of Penelope Neri’s books, the main positive is the heroine. Freya is a strong, warlike, capable heroine. She never accepts being enslaved, fighting every step of the way, although Alaric overpowers her both physically and sexually. She faces many difficulties and survives and prospers. I always appreciate the strength that Ms. Neri’s heroines have.


The biggest negative is, of course, the fact that Freya is raped twice by Alaric and another male, and that she falls in love with the person who raped her. Since this book was set in the 9th century, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” wasn’t invented, but that’s exactly what this is. I have a big issue with that, as well as the fact of a heroine falling in love with the individual who rapes her, which, sadly, was a rather common thing in romance novels of the past.

As much as I care for Ms. Neri’s heroines, I never feel the same caring for her “heroes.” Primarily because Ms. Neri’s heroes are just slightly above vermin.


Lots of sex scenes. They are not overly graphic, but they are many.


Mildly graphic violence.

Bottom Line on Sea Jewel

In the past, I have stated that I would never give a book where the heroine is raped by the “hero” a positive grade, yet I am doing so with this book. Let me explain why I am doing so. My views have somewhat evolved. I feel now that it is important to view the books I read in their complete context, not solely based on one act. This is a very good book.

As stated, there are parts I wish would have been changed, but that doesn’t completely diminish the positives of the book. If one likes medieval romance, this book may be a good one to have.

storm maiden gilgannon

Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

historical romance review
Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1997
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Published by: Pinnacle
Genres: Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 383
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon


The Book

Mary Gillgannon’s Storm Maiden was a novel I was excited to pick up. The blurb told of an intriguing Viking historical romance with plenty of conflicts.

The Plot

Fiona, an Irish lord’s daughter, is dreading marriage to a man she hates. In her father’s dungeon is Dag Thorsson, an injured Viking captive. Fiona sneaks in to see him, cares for his wounds, and tries to seduce him so she’ll be ruined for marriage. But Dag is too wounded and delirious and can’t or won’t do the job.

Soon after, Vikings led by Dag’s brother, the chieftain of his people, come to Dag’s rescue. Despite his hindering injury to his sword arm, Dag takes Fiona as his captive.

This seemed to be a primal captor-captive relationship. Too often in Viking historical romance books, the hero speaks the heroine’s language because her people captured him as a youth! Here, they cannot understand one another but can communicate in other ways…

Fiona has to adjust to life as a slave. She cannot communicate with any of the Norse folk except for Dag’s brother, who hates her and all the Irish.

The book starts out well enough, and the early love scenes are erotically charged. Dag and Fiona quickly get along and fall in love.

The main conflict is that Fiona is not well-liked by Dag’s older brother and his people. Her helpful but intrusive ways are looked upon with scorn by most of the men. Fiona helps women with birth control and delivers babies. She gives one female advice on how to please her master sexually.

Fiona’s behavior brings negative attention to her, and she is thought to be a witch.

Fiona’s a full-fleshed character and one to be admired. This was the strongest part of the book, and I appreciated her struggles to become accepted in her new society. She just needed a more challenging hero. After an amazing beginning, things began to fizzle, and the romance wasn’t thrilling.

My Opinion

Their romance is cemented early on, and they only face obstacles from outside forces, as Dag is torn between respecting his brother–his leader–and his love for Fiona. When there is so little inner conflict between the two leads, things get a little bland.

There are villains aplenty in Storm Maiden. Fiona is often in danger, but Dag is never there to save the day. This is the most annoying aspect in the novel as Dag’s sword arm is severely injured throughout the story, so he never gets to show off his warrior prowess, which is so essential in a good Viking hero. It’s Fiona who is more of a fighter. And she had many enemies who would make her life miserable.

Dag’s a nice guy. Too nice. As in boring. Hey, I like nice guys as heroes. They make me melt more them some sadistic jerk that treats the heroine like crap.

I know the early Norse were democratic men and allowed women to divorce their husbands and own their own property, but you expect a little bit of tough-guy persona when you read a Viking romance. I enjoyed some sweet aspects of Dag’s personality, such as his love for his doggy companion.

But when Dag started becoming a mouthpiece for 20th-century beliefs, like concern for women’s rights and access to birth control, it just rang a bit anachronistic, pulling me out of the story.

Final Analysis of Storm Maiden

Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon was not a bad book, but not a great one either.

I don’t read historical romances because I want to see modern-minded characters cloaked in historical trappings. If I feel the need for a more modern-minded hero, then I’ll read contemporary romances.

I can count on one hand the number of hard-core Viking warrior heroes I’ve come across. It’s a shame that true, kick-ass Vikings are so rare in historical romance as protagonists. Villains, sure. Heroes? Pfft.

2.75 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.9


Fiona of Dunsheana, the beautiful daughter of an Irish chieftain, rebelled at the idea of wedding a man she despised. And, trapped in her father’s dark, oppressive dungeon, she found a way to avoid her fate. She would allow a captured Viking to ravish her and render her unmarriageable. But the rugged golden-haired warrior refused to take her body. Instead, he captured her soul.

tara's song ziel

Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

historical romance review
Tara's Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: George Ziel
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Harem Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson


The Book

Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is another mediocre Viking romance that disappoints.

Written in the late 1970s at the height of the down-and-dirty bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to be rapacious and fun. Alas, I found it rather ho-hum.

The Plot

Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde Irish beauty Tara enters a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is not a mere novice. She is a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows.

For some mysterious reason, some of her sister nuns provide Tara with Nordic runes and teach her how to cast them to foresee the future. Obviously, the elder sisters had the prescience to know a horde of ravenous Vikings would overtake their convent. So the runic readings would come in handy for Tara’s protection later.

Tara’s new life begins when Rorik captures her. He, of the long, curly, reddish-blond hair and two long mustaches that reach past his chin, but with no beard. Just like the Viking mascot on a Minnesota footballer’s helmet.

I imagined Rorik as a young metal god, like a cross between Dave Mustaine & James Hetfield, only with lots of muscles.

Sadly, even though Rorik is a marauder, he’s BORING. Like so many Viking books I’ve read, the hero is set up as a bad-ass warrior who kills and slays hundreds, but we don’t get to experience it!

We rarely see Rorik do anything exciting as the story is told in a constrictive first-person perspective.

Tara In the North

The POV is a hindrance here. Tara tells rather than shows what’s going on. There’s a lot of info-dumping and information overload.

Some of it is wildly inaccurate, like people eating potatoes in Norway in the late 900s. That reminded me of the “chocolate”-colored eyes that the wicked “other woman” from Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame had.

Chocolate, potatoes, corn, tomatoes… None of those things are European in origin.

Research, people. It’s an essential thing!

The Vikings were portrayed as dirty and unkempt, men who never bathed, had ungroomed beards, and wore clichéd two-horned helmets into battle.

Anyway, Rorik doesn’t force himself on Tara as a pillaging Viking would. He romantically seduces her into his bed.

Meh. Give me a Viking who’s a pillager first, then learns to be romantic and civilized later on (to a certain extent).

Where’s the fun in the fantasy if the hunky Viking doesn’t take me, I mean, the heroine, over his shoulder and have his forcefully erotic way with her? Why does a Viking pirate have to charm her into his bed?

That’s for Regency rakes, not brutish Vikings.

This Viking Romance Has a Twist

At least there is a naughty twist to follow. Rorik is a polygamist, as he brings Tara home to his harem of wives.

That’s right, Rorik has not one but two wives. Tara is wifey number three.

As a pious Christian, she resents this. So she prays for the day that Rorik will cast off his other wives and divorce them as God intended. He should be with only her because that would be the honorable thing. 

For her. 

When Tara doesn’t give in to Rorik’s lust, he goes to the other wives to satisfy him. But it’s Tara he loves, not those losers!

Eventually, one of Rorik’s wives plots against them. Rorik and Tara are kidnapped and separately sold into slavery in the east.

Tara In the East

When the hero is bland in a bodice ripper, and the main characters are parted for a long time, I don’t mind. So as long as the heroine experiences some fun (read: sexy) experiences.

Regrettably, Tara’s adventures without Rorik are as entertaining as her adventures with him.

With some of the lesser-known bodice ripper authors, you were bound to get some amusing exploits. Not in this book!

Here Tara’s escapades consist of getting the flu during the worst winter ever. Or getting her first taste of eating oranges.

There was Tara in Norway shopping. Now here’s Tara in Constantinople shopping!

The most interesting character in the book is Olav, an older Viking who is also enslaved as well as castrated. He is Tara’s faithful companion.

Olav could have been a complex character. Lamentably, Ferry takes his personality, heart, and emotions away with his balls.

His devotion to Tara is that of a slavish, dog-like protector, not that of a man who can ever physically or emotionally love. It would have been intriguing to see a eunuch engage in sexy antics–just for the WTF factor (like in Bertrice Small’s Enchantress Mine).

But no, nothing special happens in Tara’s Song.

This Harem Romance Has a Twist

Actually, that’s not 100% true, as there is one mildly engaging scenario after Tara gets kidnapped.

She then gets seduced by a handsome and arrogant, overbearing Muslim slaver. Although she enjoys his lovemaking, Tara finds him so arrogant. How dare he lust after her gorgeous body!

Then, mere days later, Tara is dismayed to see a sexy, young male slave dance his way into her lover’s bed.

Guess Tara’s not as hot as she thinks!

Again, a faintly similar situation was portrayed in Enchantress Mine. However, that situation was more shocking and actually entertaining.

And I wasn’t all that crazy about Enchantress Mine because I hated the too-perfect heroine. So to me, Tara’s Song is the lesser book.

Final Analysis of Tara’s Song

O, ancient gods of the Norse! At times Tara’s Song was as dry as the turkey from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

 photo griswold_turkey.jpg


It does get good during the last few pages when Rorik once and for all displays his brutal warrior skills instead of the reader just being told about it. He viciously makes mincemeat out of his enemies. He slaughters them all, demonstrating his awesome Nordic might.

Too bad; too late. Where was that Rorik 400 pages ago?

I’d put this book in the to-sell pile, but I adore the George Ziel cover art too much.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.4


Hers is the song of all women. It cries to be heard as she sings of her love for one man. Listen! Tara’s Song.

He Was The Strongest Man of His Time–Until She Became His Weakness…

Beautiful, devout young Tara, a novice in a country abbey, finds her cloistered life suddenly destroyed when Viking invaders burn the convent and take her prisoner. Wedded against her will to the pagan chieftain Rorik, Tara slowly overcomes her fear as Rorik introduces her to the joy of passionate love.

Then a vicious abduction separates the lovers–and their search to be reunited takes them from the dramatic northern fjords to the shores of the Black Sea from Arabian domed palaces and the slave marts of Constantinople to an isolated Greek island. For the love of Tara and Rorik must survive the ravages of war, the cruel twists of treachery, and the challenge of a vast continent…

viking rose pino

Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price

historical romance review
Viking Rose by Ashland Price
Rating: half-star
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price

The Book

Ashland Price‘s Viking Rose has to be the worst Viking romance I’ve ever read. In fact, it’s one of the worst romances I’ve ever read.

I’m sorry to be blunt and mean, but I did not enjoy this boring, meandering tale of a Viking and his “captive” traveling through Ireland together.

The Plot

Storr is a Viking who lands in Eire, He kidnaps Alanna for some reason. He doesn’t want her body, as Storr is nothing but a big crybaby.

I HATE books where the hero is in eternal mourning for his dead wife. That is my #1 pet peeve in romances.

It’s one thing to have had a love that died, but when 95% of the book is about how the hero can’t get over her, there’s really not much room for romance with the heroine.

Quite frankly, I prefer the other woman to be alive. It’s one thing to have a flesh-and-blood woman to compete with, but how can the heroine ever win out to a perfect ghost?

Final Analysis of Viking Rose

Not to mention, Viking Rose was boring as hell. Did anything happen, except for Alanna and Storr traveling together endlessly, while Storr hates Alanna and cries (over and over–oh, those pillows!!) about his wife?

If it did, I blocked it out.

It’s also weird how at the beginning of the book, the heroine has black hair, but by the end, it’s red.

Eh, that’s a superficial gripe, but probably the most fascinating aspect of this mind-numbing read.


Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 1.1



When Alanna sighted a blond giant of a man bathing in a nearby stream, the Irish maiden guessed he was one of those dangerous raiders she’d heard tales of. Though she should have fled, Alanna could not draw her eyes away from his bronzed muscles, long sun-gold hair, and piercing blue eyes. Before she knew it, the Norseman had captured her…. Outraged, Alanna planned her escape; yet when his rock-hard arms enveloped her and his demanding kisses set her pulse on fire, she marveled that a man from a frozen land could evoke such a rapturous heat in her own blood…


Intent on scouting the alien country for his Viking raiding party, Storr had no time for a furious Erse maiden! Yet, he could not let her sound an alert, so he took her captive. And what a choice beauty he’d gotten! Her lush curves, cocoa-colored eyes, and dark auburn-streaked hair made her a prize beyond compare, But it was the brave but gentle spirit in this fair rose of Erin that finally made the fierce warrior wish to brand her as his alone. He would calm her with his soft caresses, thrill her with his fiery kisses, then bring her to rapturous heights with a masterful Viking passion she would crave again and again!

Viking Rose by Ashland Price

READ Viking Rose by Ashland Price FOR FREE AT OPEN LIBRARY

edin's embrace pino

Historical Romance Review: Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw

historical romance review
Edin's Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw


The Book

Wow… What an experience! Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw is a Zebra Lovegram romance published way back in 1989.

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.

The Set-Up

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’s Fires of Winter 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.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.7



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.