Tag Archives: villainess in love with hero

texas star

Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #1 (Blue Falcon)

We’re posting a pair of Dueling Reviews where our reviewers have two very different opinions on Texas Star by Deana James. Here is Blue Falcon’s take.

TEXAS STAR DUELING REVIEWS
Texas Star by Deana James
Rating: half-star
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Texas-Angel #3
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Western Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 458
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #1 (Blue Falcon)

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Texas Star, a Zebra Lovegram western historical romance and book #3 in the “Texas” series by Deana James.

The Setup

The book doesn’t begin in Texas but in Mexico, where Estrella Luisa Garner y Montejo, hereafter known as Star Garner, the book’s heroine, lives with her brother, Tomas, and his wife, Clara.

Riding onto their property is a man calling himself “Christopher Stewart,” who claims he wants to breed his horse to Tomas’ horses. They don’t realize Christopher has ulterior motives.

It isn’t until he spirits Star away that he reveals the truth: his name is Christopher Stewart Gillard. He is a bounty hunter hired to bring Star back to Texas to die for the killing of her husband, Luke Garner.

The Backstory

Christopher was employed by Matthew Garner, Luke’s father, to bring Star back after Luke was shot and killed, ostensibly by Star. Star was tried and convicted by a jury, but Tomas rescued her before she was hung.

The real story is far more complicated than that.

The Plot

As Chris transports Star from Mexico to Texas, they become lovers.

However, he also hits her, and she is later raped by an attacker, whom she kills. Chris takes Star to his ranch, where she meets his son, Duff, 5.

Duff’s mother, Christine, passed away, giving birth to him. While there, Star hopes if she satisfies Chris sexually, he won’t turn her in.

Chris’s response: bringing Star to Crossways, Texas, to be hanged. Matthew, however, doesn’t actually plan to kill Star. He has other plans in mind for her.

Upon discovering he was wrong about Star, Chris regrets bringing her back to Matthew and tries to rescue her.

Maudie then hires him as her bodyguard, among other things. Chris leaves, then he tries to spirit Star off Garner’s ranch. The rescue attempt is only partially successful, as Matthew catches up to them and shoots Chris, severely wounding him.

Despite being wounded, Chris makes his way to Garner’s ranch, where Maudie holds Duff hostage. She shoots Matthew and tries to force Chris to marry and impregnate her.

He is saved by Star, who shoots and kills Maudie after the truth of what happened to Luke is revealed.

In the end, Star and Chris realize they love each other, marry, and have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

I suppose I can give Star credit for surviving her abusive relationship with Luke.

The Downside

Having said that, she then engages in another abusive relationship with Chris, who, like Luke, emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abuses her.

There are two romance novel tropes I absolutely hate.

1. Stockholm Syndrome romance

2. Revenge/proxy romances, where the hero punishes the innocent heroine for something someone she either knows or doesn’t know did to the hero.

Texas Star is in the former category.

None of the primary characters are likable.

There are also multiple creepy elements, such as the fact that Maudie and Matthew-who were twins–were engaged in an incestuous relationship.

Sex

Steam Level: The sex scenes between Star and Chris range from coercive to not exciting. Lukewarm at best.

warm

Violence

Assault, battery, shootings, sodomy, and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Star

Star may forgive Chris for his perfidy. I don’t. This western romance by Deana James, Texas Star, is not the worst book I’ve ever read–that “honor” still belongs to Cassie Edwards’ putrid novel Eugenia’s Embrace.

But it is in the top 10 worst books I’ve ever read.

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
0.5
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0
Overall: 0.4

(Cover points don’t count!)


Synopsis

IN THE SUN’S BLAZE…

Ebon-haired Star Garner was a wanted woman–and Chris Gillard was determined to collect the generous bounty for bringing her in. He caught the lovely fugitive… but then she trapped him–bewitching him with her luscious figure and innocent onyx eyes. Instead of returning her straightaway to the law, the hot-blooded cowboy took her to his ranch. There he tried to have his fill of her, at high noon and at darkest night, but once he tasted her magnolia-petal flesh, it was impossible to sate his unquenchable desire.

BY THE MOON’S GLOW…

Desperate to be free again, Star made love to her captor as if her life depended on it. The beautiful outlaw sacrificed her very soul to please him… until, to her horror, she discovered she craved and needed his raw, masculine force. Still, she knew Chris had his price and he’d turn her in with no regrets. But what she never counted on was his obsession with her–and how he’d pursue the sleek beauty to the ends of the earth to forever to possess his fiery TEXAS STAR.

Texas Star by Deana James

Historical Romance Review: Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

Brazen Ecstasy is the best of first four books Janelle Taylor’s in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series so far.

book review historical romance
Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage/ Gray Eagle Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance
Pages: 496
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Brazen Ecstasy, book #4 in the Ecstasy/Gray Eagle Series by Kensington/ Zebra author Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

Alisha and Gray Eagle Separated Yet Again!

When Brazen Ecstasy begins, it has been five years since Alisha Williams and Oglala Lakota warrior Gray Eagle first met. Despite numerous hardships–many self-inflicted–they have welcomed a son, Bright Arrow. They are very much in love and happy.

Which–of course–means something will soon shatter their happiness. Two things, in fact.

The first incident is when American soldiers kidnap Bright Arrow in an effort to bring Gray Eagle to heel. This effort fails somewhat as Gray Eagle rescues his son. However, there is tragic news. During the rescue, Alisha was hit on the head, fell into a raging river, and got swept away.

Gray Eagle’s tribe believes she’s dead!

Fortunately–or not–Alisha is rescued by Brave Bear, her former Blackfoot suitor. But Alisha has suffered amnesia from the head injury. She doesn’t remember the last five years of her life.

brazen ecstasy

The Other Woman Makes Trouble

That creates many issues between her and Gray Eagle when he finally decides to search for her and brings her back to the Oglala camp.

Because while Alisha was with Brave Bear’s people, Leah Winston, a white slave with a strong resemblance to Alisha, set her eyes on Gray Eagle.

She does her best to take advantage of Alisha’s absence by ingratiating herself with Bright Arrow.

Then Leah attempts to seduce Gray Eagle– and almost succeeds. But despite the blatant evidence of physical attraction to her–if you know what I mean, and I think you do!–our hero ultimately rebuffs her advances.

For such acts of other-woman villainy, Leah is fated to die later on when trying to kill Alisha/Shalee.

Alisha’s amnesia–plus Leah’s taunts about her (non-existent) affair with Gray Eagle–exacerbates the rift between the two protagonists, who briefly separate–again.

Ah, but love wins out, and in time, the couple reconciles.

A secret is revealed. Gray Eagle and his warriors take their revenge upon the White soldiers for the previous attack. And for a while, happiness comes to Alisha and Gray Eagle.

The Upside

Mrs. Taylor is at her evocative, flowery, lyrical best in Brazen Ecstasy.

The characters are developed, and the emotional level is turned up to 11.

Powered by GIPHY

The arguments that Alisha and Gray Eagle had with each other could have easily happened today, as in 1782–when the book is set. Or in 1983 when the Brazen Ecstasy was first published.

Downside

No matter how evil Leah was, that does not excuse Running Wolf, Gray Eagle’s father, for raping her.

During the quarrels Alisha and Gray Eagle have regarding Leah, his behavior comes across as very childish. Gray Eagle lacks any sympathy and understanding for Alisha’s trauma from her kidnapping.

Sex

very warm heat level

The love scenes in Brazen Ecstasy are a bit more graphic than in the previous books in the series. It’s still not erotica, but there’s a little more pepper in the soup here.

Violence

In addition to the aforementioned rape of Leah and the assault on Alisha, there are other scenes of assault, shootings, and other forms of violence. The violence is not as graphic as in the first book in the series, Savage Ecstasy.

Bottom Line on Brazen Ecstasy

Brazen Ecstasy is the best of Janelle Taylor’s first four books in the “Ecstasy/ Gray Eagle” series so far. (#1 Savage Ecstasy, #2 Defiant Ecstasy, and #3 Forbidden Ecstasy.)

It is not flawless, but it is very, very good.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis

For four years, green-eyed Alisha Williams had been Princess Shalee, the cherished wife of the Oglala Chief Gray Eagle. Still their love was stronger than the surging white water of a snow-swollen stream and even more powerful then the fiery crimson sun that commanded the earth. But fate envied their perfect love and swept the stunning Alisha down a raging river and out of Gray Eagle’s life…

There was no way Gray Eagle could know that his love was alive when his empty teepee proved she was gone. But the daily torment of his lonely heart and the nightly agony of unfulfilled passion insisted that somehow she had survived destiny’s decree. He had rescued Alisha many times before — somehow he would find her once more. No river was too wide and no journey was too long to find his beloved, to share again their BRAZEN ECSTASY…

BRAZEN Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
passions paradise

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton

historical romance review
Passion's Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1981
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Bodice Ripper, Historical Romance
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton is a wonderfully terrible book published by Zebra in its early years. The cover warns you; it’s dark and dreary, done in deep blues and white, with the wrong hair color for the hero and a ship about to sink in the ocean that shouts: “Disaster looms ahead!”

I got this book in one of those e-bay lots, it was a freebie that the seller was perhaps too embarrassed to mention and only too glad to get rid of, with no back cover (no worries, I printed out the book blurb and taped it to the back) and garnished with red stamps from Arlene’s Book House & Paperback Exchange in Sweetwater, Texas. Now it lay in my Yankee hands, ready to thrill me with its awfulness.

Lying together upon the crest, their two profiles met, silhouetted as one against the clouds’ pink lattice. Here the sun shone softly, and the thrushes and cardinals and mockingbirds cooed love songs sang of twilight nigh, and the nascent magnolia flowers bloomed fragrantly…

PASSION’S PARADISE

The Plot of Passion’s Paradise

Captain Ty, or Tyrone, the supposed hero of Passion’s Paradise is a pirate, a slaver, a whoremonger, a politician–but I repeat myself.

Tyrone captures the ship that bears Angel Sherwood and her family from England to America. His Pa told him there was a special package on board and Ty was to take it. Ty and Pa had an agreement that Ty would marry when Pa found a woman worthy of his son and–who the hell cares, is the plot important? Not to the author, so you shouldn’t care either! Random events occur in the book, story-lines are dropped and nothing makes sense.

There is a mysterious murder… Is Ty the killer? Who knows? Who cares?

There is another murder. Is Ty the killer? Well, this time yes, but again, who cares?

Angel runs away from Tyrone about four times in a row but keeps getting caught. The final time she flees, she leaves her severely mentally-unbalanced mother behind and promises to retrieve her. Of course, the only person Angel can trust to care for Mama is Tyrone’s evil ex-mistress. Mama goes missing. A year passes by, and Angel is concerned, but she’s had so much on her mind that she hasn’t had time to search.

You see Ty’s penis keeps taunting her in those tight pants he wears and a girl can’t think straight with that anteater staring at her.

Stupid Big Misunderstandings & Clichés Abound

This book is filled with stupid “big misunderstandings” and really random, unnecessary secrets. For 200 pages the big mystery of the book is Angel’s first name. There’s no reason for her to hide it. I think it’s just so the author could have Tyrone call the heroine “My mysterious Angel” without him knowing that was really her name. Lame.

Ty’s last name is a secret. Who is Ty’s father? Is Tyrone married? What is the secret of Cresthaven plantation? Where did Angel’s hymen go if she really was a virgin? (It blew up in the fire. Really, it did.)

Don’t expect any PC, this book is raw. A Chinese prostitute does her best at a Mickey Rooney Breakfast at Tiffany’s impression. Ty has slaves and whips them bloody. He takes what he wants from Angel (her love pudding) and doesn’t ask permission.

But oh, he’s a misunderstood devil. There’s depth to Capt. Ty, and a heart that yearns for love. You see he had a rough childhood because his mother was a slut, or something like that.

Final Analysis of Passion’s Paradise

Passion’s Paradise is a cliché-ridden calamity. Even so, it was oddly entertaining, like a terrible movie you watch just to shout inanities at the screen. Plus, I can’t hate a book with such craptastic dialogue as:

Ellen (a prostitute): “You know I used to enjoy all kinds of men before Captain Ty came along. That tawny-haired devil made me forget them all, with his lean body and bulging crotch! Shees! I’ve bedded down with more men than you could ever hope to meet in your lifetime.”

Angel: “But not with Captain Ty?”

Ellen: “Bitch. Take your clothes off!”

Apparently, this book was a multi-million seller putting Zebra on the map. And it didn’t even have a pretty cover!

What a mess. 3 itty-bitty stars for being so gloriously, wonderfully entertaining.

3 Stars


Synopsis:

As the beautiful, fair-haired Angel Sherwood sailed from England to Louisiana, she sensed that her destiny flowed with the rough waves of the ocean. Frightened by the harsh sea, Angel prayed that perhaps, just perhaps, she would find happiness and romance in her new home.

But Angel’s fate changed course when she was kidnapped by the cruel, yet captivating pirate, Captain Ty. And even though her future was suddenly in the balance, Angel was strangely warmed by his manly touch. Her strong captor stirred in her a delcious pleasure, a burning fire that made her whole body tingle with precious thrills.

Captain Ty’s black heart was softened, too by her golden presence; she was an untouched treasure, full of charm, wit and innocense — a jewel that he feverishly desired. But rather than taint his savage and foreboding name, he kept his feelings hidden. First he had to be sure that her heart belonged to him–and then he would send her to PASSION’S PARADISE! 

PASSION’S PARADISE by SONYA T. PELTON
THIS RAVAGED HEART

Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

barbara riefe historical romance review
This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Betty Maxey
Book Series: Dandridge Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Paranormal Romance, Time Travel Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 414
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – This Ravaged Heart

This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe–aka Alan Riefe–is a 1970’s Playboy Press bodice ripper. This weird work of fiction sold almost two million copies; no joke!

While it wasn’t a great book, it had enough bizarre twists to qualify for a grudgingly positive review.

This was one freaky-deeky read.

A Weird, Wild Trip

This Ravaged Heart opens up with Ross Dandridge aboard a ship that is headed from England to the USA. He has brought his bride, the English Rose, Lisa, to meet his wealthy shipbuilding family in Rhode Island.

They make love on the ship while sailors bet on when the pair will finally leave their room for some fresh air. And that’s it for romance.

That’s right. The hero and heroine have already met, fallen in love, and gotten married before the book starts, so what the hell else is there?

I tend to enjoy bodice rippers penned by male authors as they usually bring a lot of crazy fun into their works.

However…

Unlike Mr. Melissa Hepburne, who knew how to keep the pages turning with rompy, rapey/forced seduction stupidity…

Or Mr. Janette Seymour, who threw bodice-ripping tropes one after another, handled with surprising grace and sentiment…

Or Mr. Jennifer Wilde, with his penchant for verbose purple prose and clothes porn…

Barbara Riefe/ Alan Riefe is like a monkey banging away on a typewriter, putting letters onto paper in random chaos, attempting for anything remarkable to appear.

And sometimes it does, but there are a lot of dull parts to trudge through to get to them.

The Plot?

Ross has zero personality and is really quite stupid. Lisa has a good head on her shoulders, but the situations she’s in aren’t that engaging, despite how bat-guano-crazy they seem. Don’t expect any fun between Lisa and Ross; they’re separated for almost the entire book. Yup, this is a romance novel, just one without any romance.

The best thing about This Ravaged Heart is Lavinia. In her early 40’s, Lavinia is Ross’s aunt, who is engaged to her brother-in-law, Ross’s father. However, she hungers for her nephew, Ross–and shockingly, it’s revealed she is actually his mother!

Her twin sister was unable to conceive, so Lavinia switched places with her. She slept with her sister’s husband and gave birth to Ross in secret while the wife pretended to be pregnant.

And Lavinia’s a witch. Not just any old witch, but one in league with Satan’s minions, a witch who engages in sexual romps with other local witches, and has the devil’s demon, Ledion, lusting after her for hot demonic sex.

Her lack of remorse for her evil deeds and incestuous love, her unwillingness to surrender in the face of failure, and her tireless efforts to get what she wants, made Lavinia the star of the show.

Lavinia plots to get rid of Lisa and does so in a completely unexpected way. Lisa is retro-incarnated back to England in the 1660s into the body of a dying blonde. Lisa awakens to a confusing world that her post-Enlightenment, Industrial-Age mind has trouble accepting.

Then Lisa is raped various times by wicked men, makes some friends and loses them, is jailed for murder, and becomes a witch so that she can get back to her beloved (but absolutely boring) Ross.

Sounds exciting, right?

My Opinion

Well, it’s okay, but not great.

Plus, the last third of this book really draaaaagsss. Thank the Devil for Lavinia’s malicious, murderous and incestuous shenanigans. She knows how to get what she wants.

He had adored her, reveling in her body, in her movements, unable to control his passion. She laughed…a man half her age, in the prime of his youth and in one hour she had worn him down to the brink of exhaustion. It was fantastic, too beautifully barbarous to be believed. Her own flesh and blood, her own fetus grown to manhood had fallen in love with her!

It’s so freaking sick, but that’s Lavinia.

Warning to Book Collectors About the Paperbacks

Sidenote: These 40-year-old Playboy books were made of really crappy material.

My edition looked as if was in good condition but literally disintegrated in my hands: falling apart, piece by piece, the glue cracking in the spine, the cover chipping and tearing until it fell off completely.

Even my old Zebras have withstood the test of time and various re-reads with ease.

Fortunately, I had 3 extra copies of this “romance “(don’t ask me how or why!). This Ravaged Heart is notable for being one of the first romance novels to have a full-stretch cover clinch instead of a smaller image centered in the middle.

Either Barbara Riefe ‘ripper or Kathleen E. WoodiwissShanna was the first to have this style. Both novels were published in 1977. In my opinion, Betty Maxey‘s artwork isn’t as memorable as H. Tom Hall‘s illustration.

Final Analysis of This Ravaged Heart

So This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe is the first in a series of three novels. Which I have to read since I own them.

Although I’m not feeling compelled to do so anytime soon. Alan–that is, Barbara–may have gotten the WTF factor of bodice rippers right. But there are no romantic elements or engaging leads to draw me in.

This was supporting character Lavinia’s book to shine. The main characters blew.

Still, I had to give this an overall positive rating. If not for the romance, just for Lavinia’s wicked, son-loving heart, with her ridiculous Satan-worshipping, witchy antics, and of course, her cat, Mody, who was all kinds of awesome.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis:

Lisa Allworth Dandridge, a young English bride, came to America as mistress to a vast shipping fortune. Desperately in love, she and her dashing husband, Ross, never dreamed that they would soon be parted by malevolent forces beyond their control.

A powerful story of one woman’s tender love and another’s overwhelming jealousies. Their struggle for the same man sweeps across continents and across time – from the 19th century world of aristocratic splendor to plague-ridden London; from the heights of passion to the darkest pits of hell. It is a magnificent novel of star-crossed lovers caught in a web of horror.

THIS RAVAGED HEART by BARBARA RIEFE