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texas star

Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #2 (IntrovertReader)

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

DUELING REVIEWS
Texas Star by Deana James
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Texas-Angel Series#3 Published; #5 Chronogical
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Western Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 461
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James,  #2 (IntrovertReader)

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Oh boy, is Deana James‘ Texas Star a low-rated book on certain forums, especially by friends whose opinions I value very much!

Upon reading James’s dedication to this book, I knew I was in for a Historical Western Romance–not a historical western Romance.

texas star dedication

This was a gritty, shoot-em-up tale of the West. It was a bodice ripper with a kind of sad and fatalistic feel found in Steve McQueen’s Nevada Smith.

A Caveat

If, as a reader, you have a low threshold for kidnapping, rape by the hero, implied incest, or Stockholm syndrome, Texas Star probably won’t be for you.

On the other hand, for me, Deana James’s Texas Star is a riveting, emotional, action-packed novel. It’s an underappreciated gem. Perhaps it’s not a perfect example of a romance but a fascinating character study less deserving of scorn.

This is going to sound pretentious and self-aggrandizing, and yeah, maybe it is. Most contemporary readers aren’t very forgiving of certain harsh elements in fiction–historical romance, especially.

It’s a shame because fiction is fiction, not real life! One misses out on many impactful themes when one views historical fiction through a lens of rigid modern morality.

The Plot

The Outlaw

When we meet Estrella Luisa Garner y Montejo (shouldn’t Mexican/Spanish naming customs dictate her name be Estrella Luisa Montejo de Garner? *shrug*), aka Star Garner, she is at the lowest point a human can exist. Star is wanted in Texas for the murder of Luke Garner, her excrement pig of a husband.

A jury found her guilty of the charges, but before the hangman’s noose could stretch her neck like a goose, her brother, Tomás, broke her out of jail, saving her in the nick of time. With Tomás and his family, she had found temporary refuge on his Mexican estate.

Star has been in shock since long before the book opens. One thing is evident: she doesn’t like herself much.

The Bounty Hunter

Chris Gillard is a sometimes bounty hunter determined to catch the wanted fugitive. He needs money to support his failing ranch. Chris arrives at the Mexican hacienda, posing as a genial fellow interested in purchasing one of their fine Peruvian Pasos.

He accepts their polite hospitality only to kidnap Star in the middle of the night, dragging her across the border into Texas.

A Trek into Texas

As they travel together, the situation dictates they be physically close. Star can’t attempt any resistance when Chris, her kidnapper, thinks she’s trying to make a move on him. He caresses her in return, then takes her lack of resistance as consent. So he initiates sex.

Star is still traumatized from her husband’s violent rapes. Now here is another man who would violate her body. She recalls what she had to do for her husband not to beat her. So Star becomes the more active partner, turning her rape into what Chris truly believes is mutually enjoyable fuck (which says something about his sexual experience!).

Chris is obviously not a woman’s man. He has no clue about them other than they’re suitable for sex. He’s self-centered and not open-minded in the slightest. A disappointing first marriage left him cold and bitter.

Long ago, he had been an optimistic young man who thought the brightest days lay ahead, but no longer.

Unfortunately, Star is assaulted on their travels through the wilderness, not by Chris’s hands but by a gang of outlaws. Star is sodomized in a brutal encounter and, with no one to save herself, does what must be done to save herself. Chris is able to find her and tend to her wounds.

deana james western

The Captor and His Captive

He’s shocked that her body is covered in scars, proof that she experienced abuse at her husband’s hands. As Chris nurses her, he’s unsure what to think. But still, he and Star continue into Texas.

Chris has a son named Duff, whom he ignores as he tends to his struggling ranch. Star forms a strong bond with little Duff, as Chris has brought her to his ranch, keeping her there until he can collect his bounty.

Again Star throws herself at Chris, hoping that if she gives him good sex, he won’t turn her in.

How low, how desperate must a woman be to turn to her captor for help?

And how low and disgusting is Chris for using her with no intention of setting her free?

Yet strangely, despite this, she and Chris get to know one another, revealing bits of themselves little by little. Shedding off the past, they take in new elements, and a transformation begins.

The Villains

Matthew Garner, Luke’s father, was the man who paid the bounty on Star’s head. But he doesn’t want her dead. He wants her. Or, more accurately, he wants to use her body to bear a son to replace the one she killed.

The story’s true antagonist is revealed to be Maude, Matthew’s sister. She is shown to be the true mastermind behind the Garner family’s power and wealth, the person responsible for their flourishing ranch. She is a complex character.

I love a great villain, and Maude makes all her scenes fun to experience because I wanted to see her get the best of her brother.

A Final Showdown

As the story evolves, Star breaks out of her insensible state. Her love of horses, her relationship with Duff, her strange connection with Chris, all these things, and more cause her to change into a more confident woman. It’s a fascinating metamorphosis, subtly done but very satisfying.

Star proves she is not as weak as she appeared at the beginning of the book.

But Chris is a flawed man. Even as it seems he is starting to care for her, he turns Star in for the money, handing her over like a lamb to a pack of wolves: the Garner clan.

I don’t hate Chris. He’s not a mustache-twirling villain. Chris is just a man limited by his experiences and multiple disappointments. He’s a failure at many things in life, which can’t be easy on the soul.

Maybe by going back to save Star, he has a chance to rewrite a grave wrong.

But this is Star’s story, not Chris’. Ultimately, it’s a showdown of woman vs. woman, with Star saving Chris’ life.

In the end, Star becomes Chris’ wife, Duff’s mother, and a confident woman, facing the future with no fear.

Texas Star‘s Connections to Other Deana James Books

The connection between the Texas and Gillard series is finally made clear. Chris is the grandson of Mercedes-Maria from Texas Storm and great-grandson of Fancy England-Gillard from Captive Angel. Star–Estrella Montejo–is the daughter of Alejandro “Macpherson” Montejo and the Diamondback from Texas Tempest.

Steam Factor:

Although the initial sex scenes between Star and Chris are a bit uncomfortable to read because of the emotional disconnect between the two participants, as the book progresses, the sex becomes more emotionally intimate and more passionate.

While not super erotic, they did make my eyes open extra wide at certain moments.

Mark this as a very warm Texas in April or October.

very warm heat level

My Opinion

For me, the captive-captor trope and all the conflict that comes with it are fascinating. Can a captive ever honestly give consent? Can the cruel hero re-evaluate his thinking and become a better man?

Although I believe Chris has accomplished that by the end, his development is not as well-shown as Star’s is.

This book was so immersive that I wanted Star to kick Christopher in the nuts and make him see the truth.

I wanted to convince her that she had more value as a person than just being a body for men’s use!

And I exclaimed, “Hell yes!” when Star killed her attacker.

Deana James crafted an excellent, brutal western in Texas Star. I can understand readers’ distaste for the multiple rapes and if they’re repelled by how weak Star seems at the beginning. However, Star is not the same person in the conclusion that she was on the first page.

Ultimately, Star grows to be the woman she was destined to be: a lady of Texas who endures all the harshness of life to survive and thrive because within her is that wonderfully feminine strength that is fortitude.

Final Analysis of Texas Star

I rated Texas Star an A- back when I gave letter grades, or 92 out of 100. It’s still a 5-star read for me.

But don’t let that beautiful Pino cover fool you; this is not a sweet romance.

No, Texas Star is much more than that. I’m grateful that Deana James has gifted romance fiction with Star Garner’s story.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

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
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
angel heart victoria thompson

Historical Romance Review: Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel) by Victoria Thompson

historical romance review
Angel Heart by Victoria Thompson
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: A Hired Gunslinger #1; The Cowboy and the Lady #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 522
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel) by Victoria Thompson

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of the western historical romance Angel Heart by Victoria Thompson. It is also known as Texas Angel, book #1 in the A Hired Gunslinger” series. Originally this was released as a Zebra Lovegram.

This book is also connected to Texas Triumph book #2 in Ms. Thompson’s “The Cowboy and the Lady series.

The other books in the latter series were #1 Texas Treasure and #3 Texas Blonde, which have been previously reviewed at Sweet Savage Flame.

The Plot

Part 1 of Angel Heart

As Angel Heart, or Texas Angel, begins, the hero of the book, Christian “Kid” Collins–who was a supporting character in Texas Triumph–is engaged in a gun battle at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Rose and Pete Hastings, with gunslicks hired by Harlan Snyder, a ruthless rancher.

Sadly, Rose, Pete, and their unborn child have been killed. Christian is seriously wounded when he tries to escape. He is found by Comanche Indians and taken to the Diamond R ranch, home to Angelica Ross and her younger brother, Robbie. The Comanche brought him here partially due to their respect for Angelica and Robbie’s late father, Cameron.

While nursing him back to health, Angelica and Christian discover they have a mutual foe in Snyder, and Angelica asks for Christian’s help to fight him. He agrees to do so.

However, they will also have to fight their attraction for each other. They don’t, and Angelica and Christian become lovers. After which, he proposes to her, but she refuses. Despite this, Christian agrees to stay on to help Angelica with Snyder as well as help the Diamond R fulfill an Army contract to provide beef to Indian reservations.

Part 2 of Angel Heart

To that end, Christian calls in some help from his friends from the Circle M ranch in Texas Triumph. These are not ordinary ranch hands. The men are some of the most notorious gunslingers in Texas.

In concluding a successful cattle roundup, Angelica and Christian’s relationship deepens. However, he is now reluctant to marry her. This is not due to Angelica’s earlier rejection; it has more to do with Christian’s shame over his family and his concerns about what his future will be. And whether or not he has one, given his history as a gunman.

He and Angelica also gain a new enemy, a prostitute named Sunny Day. The backstory: Sunny was being sexually and physically abused by Snyder when Christian intervened to stop it. He and Sunny slept together–as in, they slept in the same bed but did not have sex.

Afterward, Sunny interpreted these acts as Christian being in love with her and wanting to protect her from Snyder’s wrath. Christian, obviously, viewed things differently. Hurt and angry that her dream isn’t going to happen, Sunny hooks up with Snyder’s newest hired gun, Tom Rivers, who was brought in specifically to kill Christian.

Part 3 of Angel Heart

Rivers makes this attempt at a party, where he tries to goad Christian into a gunfight. Christian refuses, and Rivers tries to shoot him in the back. In a surprising turn of events, Rivers is shot and killed by Miles Blackmon, a friend of Christian’s.

After a legal inquiry, the shooting is ruled justifiable. This angers Snyder, who makes his final move, kidnapping Angelica and Robbie. Christian saves Angelica, killing Snyder in the process (Robbie was taken to another location and released)

In the end, Christian shares his fears with Angelica, who helps him get beyond them, and “Kid” Collins “dies.” That’s the story the townspeople of Marsden’s Corners, Texas, tell two gun-slicks who come to town to kill Christian. They both leave without violence.

Angelica and Christian have two children, with another third on the way–and celebrate their Happily Ever After.

angel heart texas angel thompson
Angel Heart later rereleased as Texas Angel

The Upside

Angel Heart is a rare book where the hero is more emotional than the heroine. Emotional heroes are something of a trademark of Ms. Thompson’s historical romances. Angelica and Christian are a well-matched couple: two people who believe that they are too flawed to be loved by anyone.

When they find each other, they discover that this is not the case.

The Downside

There isn’t a huge amount of character development or depth here. The supporting characters are pretty one-dimensional. It’s never really explained–other than the fact that he’s a greedy evil bastard–why Snyder wanted to court Angelica or why he wanted to kill Christian so badly.

Sex

The love scenes between Angelica and Christian are very mild and not very exciting.

Violence

There is assault, battery, shootings, and a fire. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel)

There are some areas that could use improvement, but the romance novel, Angel Heart, later reissued as Texas Angel, is a solid western historical by Victoria Thompson.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis

HEAVENLY PLEASURES
Ever since Angelica’s father died, Harlan Snyder had been angling to get his hands on her ranch, the Diamond R. And now, just when she had an important government contract to fulfill, she couldn’t find a single cowhand to hire on–all because of Snyder’s threats. It was only a matter of time before she lost the ranch…. That is, until the legendary gunfighter Kid Collins turned up on her doorstep, badly wounded. Angelica assessed his firmly muscled physique and stared into his startling blue eyes. Beneath all that blood and dirt he was the handsomest man she had ever seen, and the one person who could help her beat Snyder at his own game–if the price were not too high…

DEVILISH DESIRES
Before Kid Collins knew what hit him, he had somehow agreed to act as a hired gunfighter–and for a lady. Or at least she looked like a lady, with her carefully pinned red hair and proud green eyes. But no lady would be trying to run a ranch on her own, let alone take on the likes of Harlan Snyder. She needed Kid Collins’ help, all right, but his help came with a price attached.

Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel) by Victoria Thompson
texas-wildcat-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin

historical romance review
Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 414
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin, a 1988 Zebra Lovegram historical romance.

The Plot

Texas Wildcat begins in Texas with the heroine of the book, Cordelia “Cat” Jordan, 19, who lives on a ranch, the Circle J, with her mother, Olivia, and her brother, Matt. Matt is physically challenged due to a past incident.

As the book begins, Cat is trying to forestall the Circle J from being foreclosed on. The owners of the banknote on the Circle J are the Blackstone family, a family which has a history with the Jordans, not all of which is positive.

Cat decides to meet the representative who has come to Texas to conduct the foreclosure. She is shocked to find out that the person is Logan Blackstone. Olivia and Matt already know and detest him. She also discovers that her father Hadley’s death may not have been accidental.

Romantic feelings form between Cat and Logan. However, other potential love interests are both pursuing them. Ryan Fielding, the owner of the neighboring Rocking R ranch, wants Cat–in part to merge their two ranches. Logan, meanwhile, is being pursued by Chastity Vincent, the promiscuous daughter of the local banker.

As Texas Wildcat goes on, Cat and Logan become lovers. Matt learns to find his pride and self-respect. With the help of Matt’s girlfriend, Maria Hidalgo, more shocking secrets are revealed.

Cat and Logan realize they truly do love each other and have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Cat and Logan are both strong characters. Once again, Ms. Benjamin wrote a book where her hero felt his emotions strongly, and that is great to see. She also made me care about the characters, which is extremely important to me as far as liking a book.

The Downside

The love scenes could be hotter, but that was never a strength of Ms. Benjamin’s books for me.

Sex

There are several barely lukewarm love scenes.

Violence

Multiple assaults and battery scenes. A couple of shootings and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Wildcat

There isn’t enough overall strength in Linda Benjamin’s Texas Wildcat for 5 stars, but it’s a definitely solid 4-star book.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

***

Categories: , , , , , , ,

Synopsis

No-Wit Banker
From the moment spirited “Cat” Jordan met handsome Bostonian Logan Blackstone, she couldn’t stand his overbearing arrogance. How dare he deny her ranch credit because he didn’t think a woman could do the job? Though the slender blonde had never before played the flirt, she realized that approach was her last gamble to keep her property. But the closer the long-limbed beauty sidled up to her dark-haired enemy, the more she enjoyed her role, and the less control she had over what the results might be!

Gun-Toting Hoyden
Virile, aloof Logan Blackstone was no stranger to women, but when he came across Cat Jordan, he knew she was one of a kind. The Texas filly could break horses, herd cattle, mend fences, and ignite his desire as no other female ever had! The cool Yankee refused to acknowledge her effect on him, and swore they would part the sooner the better! But once she pressed her nubile body against him and opened her lips to his, Logan was past the point of no return, swept up in the sensuous tempest of his Texas wildcat.

TEXAS WILDCAT by LINDA BENJAMIN
lone star surrender

Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

historical romance review
Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch, a standalone Zebra historical romance.

The Plot

Part 1 of Lone Star Surrender

Lone Star Surrender starts in Texas, circa 1885. Tara Winslow, the heroine, has come southwest from St. Louis to spend the summer with her father, Terrance, a newspaper publisher. She hasn’t seen him in three years.

Tara had been living in St. Louis with her grandfather, Ryan O’Donnovan, a wealthy businessman, and her mother, Libby. Terrance and Libby are separated, in large part because of her inability (or unwillingness) to stand up to her father. Tara is also engaged, unhappily, to Joseph Rutherford, one of Ryan’s business associates.

On Tara’s first day in Texas, she witnesses a murder, and is rescued by Sloane Prescott.

She meets Sloane again at the home of her friend, Julia Russel, the daughter of Merrick Russel, Sloane’s “boss.”

Sloane works for Russel as his head wrangler at Russel’s ranch, the Diamond R. Sloane isn’t working for Russel because he needs to. He has other reasons for working there: to expose Merrick as a criminal. He was also hired by Ryan and Joseph, who are investors in the Diamond R and are concerned with illegal activities they believe Merrick is involved in.

Julia wants Tara to work with Sloane to teach him manners so Julia can invite him to a dance. Unbeknownst to Julia, Tara and Sloane have a raging attraction to each other and will become lovers.

As time goes on, Tara discovers Sloane’s secrets, they marry–after she gets into trouble–and she finds out a secret he doesn’t know.

Merrick tries to kill Tara, and nearly succeeds, but she survives. Merrick later dies trying to flee Sloane after Merrick confesses his misdeeds.

Part 2 of Lone Star Surrender

After Merrick’s death, Tara thinks she and Sloane will have a clear path to happiness. She would be wrong.

Ryan and Joseph show up in Texas and forcibly take her back to St. Louis, where Ryan plans to marry her off to Joseph.

Upon hearing of her abduction, Sloane and Terrance head for St. Louis. Sloane goes to give his report and get Tara back, and Terrance to try to reconcile with Libby. Both Sloane and Terrance succeed in their endeavors to reunite with their loves.

Although, Sloane faces some token resistance from Joseph, who shows his true colors: yellow. To put it another way, Sloane was more of a man when he was born than Joseph is now.

In the end, Tara and Sloane, with Libby and Terrance–and Ryan–decide to go to Texas. The two couples have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

When she writes under the names Carol Finch and Gina Robins, Connie Feddersen has a template she uses for her books. That template: feisty, spirited heroines, bad-boys-but-good-men heroes, and lots of humor. All of these are on display in Lone Star Surrender.

Tara and Sloane are a very well-matched couple. Their chemistry jumps off the pages and sizzles throughout the book. They are a likeable pair and the story is well-plotted and engaging. The romantic suspense element is strong, and there is a twist at the end of that part of the book.

Ms. Finch goes into her characters’ emotions and gives both of them free rein to be who they are.

I never felt as if I was reading a book; I felt like I was watching their lives in front of me, and those are the kind of books I really enjoy.

I also like the way Ms. Finch uses humor in her books. While Lone Star Surrender isn’t as funny as Beloved Betrayal–which was hilarious–there are a lot of funny moments here, especially toward the end.

Way too many romance novels have an ultra-serious tone to them. It’s a romance novel, authors! Humor is a much-underutilized feature in romance novels.

The Downside

If I had to nitpick, it would be that Ms. Finch tends to be a little hero and heroine heavy in her writing. Meaning she focuses almost entirely on her main characters.

The supporting cast in her books serves two purposes: to move storylines along and to act as foils for the protagonists. I find it nice sometimes when supporting characters have scenes when the hero and heroine aren’t in them.

Sex

Ms. Finch’s love scenes focus more on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it. There are lots of purple prose and spiritual New Age writing about the deed.

Violence

Although people draw guns in the book, no one fires them. There are several scenes of assault and battery. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on The Book

Readers who like humor and romance with high-spirited heroines and strong heroes will find lots to like in Carol Finch’s Lone Star Surrender.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
When the rugged cowboy found a gorgeous, unconscious woman and her dead companion along a Texas dirt road, he knew he had to try everything to save the unlucky lady. He spirited her off to his mountain shack, gave her a potion to deaden the pain, and slashed away her bloody bodice to expose the wound. But when the virile horseman saw only her creamy, flawless flesh, he realized the blood was not hers — and that the vulnerable female needed saving only from himself!

THE HEAT OF THE DAY
When golden-haired Tara Winslow awoke in he father’s canyon retreat, she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten there. What was even more baffling were the sensual dreams, that plagued her every waking moment. As she fantasized a muscular Texas lover showing her the myriad mysteries of pleasure, the innocent adventuress realized it was too vivid to not be true! Now that she knew she’d been with the only man who could win her heart, the determined beauty vowed he’d track him down and enslave him forever with the wild rapture of her Lone Star Surrender.

Lonestar Surrender by Carol Finch

sweet savage surrender sivavec

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett
Rating: half-star
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Diane Sivavec
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

WARNING ⚠: MILD SPOILERS & SUPER-BORING BOOK 

The Book

Sweet Savage Surrender, a Zebra Lovegram that was written by mother-daughter duo Marcia Hockett and Kathryn Kramer, aka Kathryn Hockett, is a romance between two star-crossed lovers from different worlds.

It, unfortunately, includes a hated trope of mine, instant love. “Insta-luv,” or love at first sight, is acceptable if and only if there are exciting obstacles the couple has to overcome.

Oh, there are obstacles here, all right, but boring ones.

A Preamble

I always appreciate a Native American romance that attempts to delve deeply and respectfully into the cultures of the people written about. At least, I thought I did until I realized without an engaging plot or romance to go with said respect, the novel comes off pandering and weirdly self-debasing.

Was Sweet Savage Surrender so terrible to deserve my scorn, then? Scorn, no! However, it was incredibly dull, sad to say. The romance is lacking, as the main characters fall in love right away and don’t spend much time together. Everyone is so black-and-white here. The good guys are perfect and the baddies are very bad.

Instant Love and Not Much Else

Sky Raven of the Arapaho People is a half-Native, Half-American woman with fair skin and blue eyes. I don’t know where those blue eyes came from. I know Mendelian genetics alone no longer applies to eye color, but I always thought one has to have recessive genes on both parents’ sides to get blue eyes. Green or hazel would have made more sense.

Anyway, Sky Raven comes upon an injured Anglo-American soldier being held captive by her enemy tribe, the Utes. She arranges to save the man and then nurses him back to health. As her grandfather is her tribe’s medicine man, this knowledge comes easy to Sky Raven.

The soldier is Major John Hanlen of the United States Army. He takes one look at Sky Raven and is instantly smitten. It doesn’t take long before Sky Raven feels the same way about the Yankee soldier.

“The spirits have brought us together. This was meant to be. I love you, Skyraven,” declares Major John Hanlen at 17% into this dull read.

Some Hot Pipe Action

If this book had anything interesting about it, I would have added a half star. Alas, even the sex is snoozerific.

Foreplay includes SkyRaven describing the Arapaho peace pipe ceremony, which turns John Hanlen on:

“Explain more about the ceremony and your beliefs so that I can understand.”
“The peace pipe is our most sacred possession. It is really the heart of all our sacred ceremonies…”


“And could this peace pipe ceremony help to bring harmony between your people and my soldiers?”


“I believe it could be so. The spirits want there to be peace or they would never have led me to you.” Her soul knew the gentle power of love. His caress upon her was an affirmation of life and contentment.

“I care very deeply for you,” he said softly. There was no doubt in his mind as he looked into the innocent, sincere questioning eyes looking up at him. He did have deep feelings for this beautiful, brave young woman that went beyond his gratitude for having saved his life.


“And I, you,” she managed to say before his lips were again upon her own, tasting the honey, the sweetness, and the softness…

The Conclusion to This Boring Romance

John Hanlen returns to his army and tries his best to get them not to go after the Arapaho. But there’s a commanding officer named Colonel Chivington who hates the tribe and will stop at nothing to destroy them.

So the big obstacle in this romance is that he wants to exterminate the Arapaho and John Hanlen has to stop it from happening.

Sky Raven waits among her people waiting for John Hanlen to arrive (That’s what Sky Raven calls him, not John, but John Hanlen. It got pretty weird during intimate scenes where she calls him by his full name.)

Will he be able to prevent Chivington from wiping out the Arapaho people? Will true love have its day?

Wait! More Minor Irritations…

Rather than focusing on romance, I’ll just note some nits I have to pick with this book:

Nocturnal animals out in the daytime:

“The beaver was busily building a new home for themselves, the squirrels were storing food in a hole in a tree, a large mother raccoon was teaching her kits…”

A mother raccoon with her babies out in the day? Maybe just before dusk, not in broad daylight. They could be rabid.

“There was an old Arapaho saying that Skyraven thought of now. ‘Let tomorrow take care of itself.’”

Didn’t the Bible say that? Yup, I checked. It’s in Matthew 6:34. Okay, I’ll ignore that because Hockett was probably trying to demonstrate how similar Arapaho are to European-descended Americans.

The word “thug” was used, and it took me out of place. I know from my 9th grade Social Studies “thug” referred to a certain criminal element from India in the 1800s, not to Native Americans of that same time period.

People shake their heads yes. I nod my head yes and shake it no. Okay, maybe body language was different in post-Civil War America.

These are minor irritations, but honestly, they were the most interesting facets of this read.

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Surrender

In its attempt to be a respectful tale about the Arapaho people–a noble intent, which is admirable–Sweet Savage Surrender forgot to add a little spice to its sweetness. The villains are one-dimensionally evil, and the good guys are one-dimensionally good. It’s very paint-by-numbers and boring.

Sky Raven and John Hanlen fall in love right away, then spend most of Sweet Savage Surrender separated as he tries to prevent atrocities from being committed against her people. He succeeds, and they meet up and live happily ever after.

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you enjoy romances where the love story takes a back seat to the action and history. Then again, there’s not much action here, either, just talking, worrying, and introspection. This was not a fun book to experience.

Rating: 1/2 Star (The cover points don’t count!)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.3

Synopsis

CAPTIVE ENCHANTMENT
With skin of creamy satin and hair of ebon silk, Skyraven was the pride of her Arapaho tribe. But the voluptuous maiden had not yet met the warrior who could stir her blood… until the day she came upon the golden-haired man in the clearing — a man as sleek and powerful as the most magnificent brave. She quickly freed the handsome stranger from the cruel bonds that held him captive… only to succumb to his seductive charms once he’d regained his awesome strength. And though their passion was forbidden, the hot-blooded half-breed soon burned for the fiery rapture of her lover’s embrace!

TENDER TORMENT
After his capture by the Utes, Major John Hanlen thought death was a heartbeat away. Instead, he opened his eyes to see an enchanting, indigo-eyed angel sweetly tending his wounds. He knew he shouldn’t jeopardize his peace-seeking mission by making love to the young beauty, but just the sight of her aroused him to distraction! And once he’d tasted the secret sweetness of her deepest desires, he became her willing slave, yearning only to savor, again and again, her Sweet Savage Surrender…

SWEET SAVAGE SURRENDER by KATHRYN HOCKETT

Comanche Love Song

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

book review historical romance
Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black
Rating: half-star
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Don Case
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

The Book

This review is of Comanche Love Song a standalone Zebra Heartfire from June 1989 by Cheryl Black.

The Plot

Part 1 of Comanche Love Song

The book begins in Stonewall County, Texas, in 1855. A family is doing chores around their farm. Only one member of the family, a then-two-year-old girl, will be alive by the end of the day.

Fast forward 17 years. U.S. Army Major Walker Grayson meets up with a group of soldiers, who have a captive with them named Silver Dawn. She is the heroine of the book and is the girl–now an adult–mentioned earlier.

Silver Dawn has been raised by the Comanche since they took her from her family at age 2. She tries various times to escape Army custody but is always brought back.

Meanwhile, she and Walker are becoming attracted to each other, later becoming lovers–and married in Comanche tradition.

Soon after their first intimate encounter, Walker takes Silver Dawn to Fort Nacogdoches, Texas, where things don’t go well for her.

Part 2 of Comanche Love Song

The scene then shifts to Louisiana, where we meet Walker’s family. There is the father Samuel, stepmother Kathren, sister Amanda, brother Seth, and Camelia Rhinehart, Walker’s fiance.

Silver becomes aware of the Grayson family drama and starts a little of her own.

In the end, the Grayson family loses several members but gains others when Silver Dawn and Walker add to the family, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

I made a vow to finish every book I purchased with my own money. That vow remains intact.

Downside

Where to begin? Comanche Love Song is a hot mess. First, Walker captures Silver Dawn, then has sex with her despite having a fiance back in Louisiana!

When Walker takes Silver to Louisiana, the book changes to a 1980’s soap opera with mostly unlikeable characters and storylines that are convoluted and beyond stupid.

There is no character development at all.

There is no romance between Silver Dawn and Walker. Basically, the only time they’re together is when they are having sex. They’re apart from each other for about 75% of the book. And most of that is due to Walker locking her up. Yes, a great way to show you love someone is to imprison them.

Sex

The love scenes between Silver Dawn and Walker are fairly mild, don’t generate any heat, and are not erotic.

Violence

Assault, battery, shooting, and killing all take place during Comanche Love Song. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Comanche Love Song

Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black has now passed Eugenia’s Embrace by Cassie Edwards as the worst book I’ve ever read.

At least Eugenia’s Embrace had sex scenes going for it. Ms. Black’s book has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’d give this zero stars if I could.

.5 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.2

Synopsis:

RHYTHM OF RAPTURE

Though her skin was milky white, lovely Silver Dawn never thought she was anything less than all Comanche. And when she first set eyes on the despicable Major Walker Grayson, the savage beauty could only hate the man who was out to kill her red-skinned grandfather. Yet somehow his green eyes made her pulse hammer with excitement, his rock hard frame made her yearn for his loving touch. And even as her mind vowed to stab the treacherous paleface, her body swore her total surrender!

DANCE OF DESIRE

If the ambitious Major Grayson could kill the infamous Horse Back, he’d be assured of an important position back East. Then he captured the Indian chief’s “daughter”, the wild, spirited Silver Dawn, and Walker calculated he’d earn more prestige by returning the white squaw to civilization. But as the hot-blooded officer struggled to tame her, primal lust made him forget his career. Now all that mattered was dominating her each day, fulfilling her each night, and forever falling under the spell of her… COMANCHE LOVE SONG

COMANCHE LOVE SONG by CHERYL BLACK
comanche bride merrit

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt

comanche bride emma merritt
Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Native American Romance, Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 472
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Comanche Bride, a standalone January Zebra Lovegram from 1989 by Emma Merritt.

The Plot

Comanche Bride starts at an undisclosed time–later stated as sometime after the Civil War–as a caravan is making its way from Chandlerville, Texas, to Mexico on a humanitarian mission. There is a cholera epidemic in Mexico. Seven people are in the caravan: six men and Dr. Zoe Ellen Randolph, the heroine.

They won’t make it to Mexico, however. The caravan is attacked by Comanche Indians, the six men are killed, and Zoe is captured.

She is taken to a Comanche village, where two men will fight for her. One of the men is Matt Chandler, the hero of the book (Matt is half-white and half-Comanche).

Matt wins the fight, but then he has to marry and make love to Zoe to seal his victory. Matt soon discovers that marrying Zoe has an added benefit: it helps him get revenge against Weber Fielding, a man Matt has a long history of bad blood with and also is Zoe’s fiance.

Soon after their marriage in the Comanche camp, Matt takes Zoe to Candelaria, Mexico, to complete her humanitarian mission there.

A near tragedy occurs when Zoe is bitten by a snake, falls, and hits her head, suffering a concussion.

Matt later takes her back to Chandlerville, Texas–named after his family–where she recovers. While there, Matt reconciles past issues with his stepmother, Dora, and grandfather, Uriah.

We also learn why Weber wants to marry Zoe. It’s not because he loves her. When Zoe tells Weber she won’t marry him, he doesn’t take it well.

In the end, Zoe kills Weber after his henchman shoots Matt in a violent confrontation. Matt recovers from his wounds, and he and Zoe have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

When Comanche Bride was published, romance publishers were beginning to veer away from the–to use a Victorian term: ”fresh out of the schoolroom”–heroines and toward different types of female leads. Zoe is one of them. She is 29, a doctor, and very independent. Both she and Matt are developed mature characters.

Downside

There isn’t a lot of hot passion or chemistry between Zoe and Matt. Having read several of Ms. Merritt’s books, I can say with some certainty that hot passion and chemistry between leads aren’t strengths of Ms. Merritt’s writing.

Sex

Three love scenes involving Zoe and Matt. They are mildly graphic.

Violence

Abduction, assault and battery, and multiple killings take place. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line On Comanche Bride

There are things to like about Emma Merritt’s Comanche Bride. But there are also enough negatives that bring the book’s final grade down.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.2

Synopsis:

SHE’D USE HIM TO ESCAPE
When stunning Dr. Zoe Randolph headed to Mexico to halt a cholera epidemic, she didn’t think twice about traversing Comanche territory… until a band of bloodthirsty savages attacked her caravan. The gorgeous physician was furious that her mission had been interrupted, but nothing compared to the rage she felt on meeting the barbaric warrior who made her his slave. Determined to return to civilization, the ivory-skinned blonde decided to make a woman’s ultimate sacrifice to gain her freedom–and never admit that deep down inside she burned to be loved by the handsome brute!

HE’D TAKE HER IN REVENGE
The virile half-breed Matt Chandler couldn’t help but admire the paleface prisoner who resisted her captors. One with such fire and spirit would surely be a lioness upon his sleeping mats. Then the Indian discovered that the wildcat was his most hated enemy’s fiancee, and he had all the more reason to ravish her. Matt planned the worst for Zoe… but when his hard-muscled body met her graceful curves, all thoughts of the past vanished, as he initiated her into love’s passionate secrets and made her his COMANCHE BRIDE.

Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt
Author-spotlight-VAUGHAN

Author Spotlight: Robert Vaughan

Author-spotlight-VAUGHAN

A Romance King (and Queen)

Robert Vaughan, An Author with Many Names

Robert Vaughan isn’t a household name as a romance writer. You might be surprised to learn that in the 20th century he sold tens of millions of books. However, as he used dozens of pseudonyms, many readers do not know who he is.

His pen names include Paula Fairman, K.C. McKenna, Paula Moore, Fancy DeWitt, Patricia Matthews, Jonathon Scofield, Lee Davis Willoughby, Kit Dalton, and Sara Luck.

Vaughan has written more than 300 to 400 books using 30 to 40 aliases.

He has penned various genres of fiction, including romance, action-adventure, military, and westerns.

Robert Vaughan Paula Fairman

Early Life and Military Career

Robert Vaughan was born in 1937 in Morley, Missouri, and raised in Sikeston, Missouri. His father served in the military. Robert followed in his father’s tracks in the late 1950s, entering Army Aviation. 

He served a distinguished career in the US Army as a soldier for 23 years. He had tours in Korea and Germany and three combat tours in Vietnam.

Vaughan would participate in the atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in 1957.

He engaged in the civil-rights deployment of James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi. Vaughan was stationed to Homestead AFB as part of the potential invasion force during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Vaughan received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and other medals.

During his military career, his creative talents came to the forefront. Vaughan wrote training manuals for the US Army and was the recipient of the Most Outstanding Military Writer six times. 

robert vaughan

A Journeyman Author Begins His Travels

Vaughan sold his first book when he was 19. It was a story of the US Army along the DMZ in Korea.

After Vaughan was discharged from the Army, he began his prolific writing career in earnest. He worked in almost every genre.

Sometimes he would publish under his real name, write under a pseudonym, or he would ghostwrite for other authors.

brandywine's war

Paula Fairman & Paula Moore

Under various pen names, including “Paula Moore” and “Paula Fairman,” Vaughan wrote romance novels that were extremely popular at the time they were written.

In 1977 Paula Fairman achieved massive sales with two bodice rippers, Forbidden Destiny and In Savage Splendor.

The books sold millions of copies for Pinnacle, who published many successful historical romances in the 1970s.

When Paul Fairman–the real Paula–passed away late that year, he left behind one unfinished manuscript. Robert Vaughan stepped in to continue writing as Paula Fairman.

He wrote a dozen more Paula Fairman bestsellers from 1978 to 1991.

southern ros solie

Some of those books would be republished in the 21st century under the name Fancy Dewitt.

As Paula Moore, Vaughan also authored historical, contemporary, and Gothic romances.

Patricia Matthews

Patricia Matthews was another best-selling Pinnacle author. The publisher even labeled her as “America’s First Lady of Historical Romance.” Matthews earned many awards, and her books sold millions of copies.

Patricia Matthews was–ostensibly–the working name of the husband and wife team, Patricia Klein Ernst Brisco Matthews & Clayton Matthews. Patricia also wrote under the pseudonyms of P.A. Brisco, Patty Brisco, Pat A. Brisco, Pat Brisco, Laura Wylie, and Denise Matthews with a friend.

Clayton passed away in 2004, and Patricia followed him in 2006.

However, Robert Vaughan is on record claiming to be the author of at least two of Matthews’ novels, Love’s Bold Journey (1980) and Love’s Sweet Agony (1980):

“I wrote [them] as Patricia Matthews, made number one on the list. In 1981, I sold 6 million books. In my lifetime, I have probably sold 40 million books, but nobody knows who I am.

ROBERT VAUGHAN
love's bold journey

All the Work, But Little Credit

Vaughan has been candid about being the creator of two dozen bestselling romances from the 1970s into the 1990s, including the aforementioned Matthews novels.

“[T]wenty-three romance novels, writing as Paula Moore, Paula Fairman, and Patricia Matthews, total sales of over fifteen million copies. Two of these romance novels, Love’s Bold Journey and Love’s Sweet Agony, were number one on the NYT and PW bestseller lists.”  

ROBERT VAUGHAN

As a journeyman ghostwriter, Vaughan never owned the rights to those names. As a result, he never received his due acclaim for his success.

Other Works of Fiction by Robert Vaughan

Among his notable non-romance books are: Survival: A Novel of The Donner Party; Brandywine’s War; The Valkyrie Mandate; The Power and the Pride; Gravedancer; When Honor Dies; and The Broken Covenant.

Vaughan was very proud of his work for the novelization of the television miniseries, Andersonville.

robert vaughan

He won the 1977 Porgie Award (Best Paperback Original) for The Power and the Pride.

powerand the pride vaughan

Sara Luck

He and his wife, Ruth, collaborate on their writing projects. Of course, they write romance!

“My wife Ruth and I are co-writing romance novels as Sara Luck. 

“She’s actually quite good at it, and I’m proud of her. And though the Sara Luck books don’t have my name, Ruth and I at least own the name.”

ROBERT VAUGHAN

In the 2010s, Robert and Ruth co-wrote nine novels together.

sara luck

Life Today

Vaughan enjoys classical music and loves football, particularly college football. He also enjoys cooking and public speaking and will “accept invitations at the drop of a hat.”

He and his wife split their time living on the Alabama coast, residing in places all over the country, such as Oregon, Wyoming, and Chicago.

For many years Robert Vaughan taught the writing craft to many aspiring authors.

Although Vaughan has retired from the official speaking circuit, he is still active today.

Writing Legacy

A Pulitzer Prize nominee, Vaughan has won many prestigious writing awards. They include the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Golden Triangle Writers Club, the Best Novel of the Vietnam War from Canadian University Symposium, and the Porgie Award from West Coast Books.

He was named the Best Military Writer of the Year by Army Aviation Digest for six consecutive years. Vaughan was an on-air Television personality in Portsmouth, VA, and Phoenix, AZ. In addition, he has been a national military consultant for FOX NEWS and CNN.

Robert Vaughan was inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame in 1998. His memoir, Random Thoughts of an Old Writer, was released in 2021 by Wolfpack Publishing.

Random Thoughts of an Old Writer

Robert Vaughan Covers

Your Opinion

Are you surprised to learn how prolific and successful a romance writer Robert Vaughan was? Have you read any Robert Vaughan romances?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

tender savage phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

tender savage phoebe conn
Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Tender Savage, a standalone Zebra Lovegram by Phoebe Conn.

Tender Savage starts in Wilmington, Delaware, in June 1862. The book spans from June 1862 to September 1863 during the American Civil War.

The Plot

Part One of Tender Savage

The book begins with Erica Hanson and Mark Randall kissing passionately. The night won’t end happily for either, unfortunately. Mark and Erica’s father, Lars, a physician, are going to leave the next day to join the Union army.

Erica is being sent to New Ulm, Minnesota. She is to live with Lars’ sister, Britta, and her husband, Karl Ludwig, who owns a store there. However, Erica wants to marry Mark–or at least become his lover–before leaving for war. Mark refuses. This is the source of the conflict between them.

When Erica arrives in New Ulm, she meets Viper, a half-Lakota, half-white Indian. They share kisses and are attracted to each other.

Things look bleak as Viper and his fellow Lakota will soon be at war with the white citizens of New Ulm after promises from the government fail to materialize. During the uprising, Viper kidnaps Erica. He does so for two reasons. One is to keep her from being killed, and two, because he’s hot for her. It’s not so bad, as she is also hot for him. Erica and Viper become lovers and are married in the Lakota tradition.

Soon, however, hardships emerge. Viper’s aunt, plus an evil-other woman who is in lust with him, causes problems for Erica.

Part Two of Tender Savage

An even bigger problem will soon present itself in the form of Mark. He arranges a transfer to Minnesota to find Erica and marry her. Mark arrives in Minnesota, finds Erica with Viper, and arrests him. Viper must stand trial in a military tribunal, where he is tried and convicted.

After this, Viper asks Mark to marry Erica, which Mark agrees to. Erica and Mark marry, and he is sent back to Wilmington to rejoin the Union Army. Happiness and sadness soon follow as Erica discovers she is pregnant with Viper’s child. Meanwhile, Mark is seriously injured during the war, gets blinded, and becomes an invalid who needs constant care.

Back in Minnesota, Viper’s conviction is vacated. He leaves the state heading to Delaware to find Erica. Adopting the name “Etienne Bouchard” (his French grandfather’s name), Viper finagles his way into becoming Mark’s companion, which severely irritates Erica.

Soon after “Etienne’s” arrival, Erica gives birth to a son who looks exactly like Etienne. This creates a rift between Erica and Etienne on one side and Lars and Sarah Randall–Mark’s sister–, on the other. Poor, hapless Mark doesn’t know he’s not the child’s father.

In the end, Mark conveniently passes away. Erica and Viper go back to Minnesota–to a different part of the state. Lars and Sarah marry, and both couples have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The backdrop of Tender Savage is the Minnesota Sioux Uprising of 1862, an actual occurrence. Mrs. Conn does a fairly good job melding her fictional characters with real people and events.

On some levels, Tender Savage tries to be like Nancy Henderson (Nan) Ryan’s excellent romance, Kathleen’s Surrender. Like that book, Tender Savage takes place in part during the Civil War and features a love triangle. That, however, is where the similarities end.

Downside

Mrs. Ryan had the ability to make me, as a reader, care about her characters and feel their emotions. Mrs. Conn–although she tries–sadlyTender Savage does not.

Tender Savage is the seventh book I’ve read by Phoebe Conn. Like the other six, Tender Savage lacks both emotional depth and character development.

I also had issues with the heroine and hero. Erica checks off the basic romance heroine boxes: she’s beautiful, young, sexy, and has a great body, but… That’s it. There really is no substance to her.

Viper is worse. Mrs. Conn would have been better served to name him “Etienne Bouchard” because Viper is basically a white Indian. Although she researched the uprising, it is clear that Mrs. Conn did none about the Lakota tribe.

There is almost nothing about Viper–besides living in a teepee and eating pemmican–that would identify him as a Native American. The only depth to his character is that we learn he has French ancestry.

There is very little romantic chemistry between Erica and Viper. The beginning of their relationship in no way indicates love; they are in lust with each other. Although Mrs. Conn tries at the end, she falls well short of creating the type of characters I can genuinely care about.

Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that after he gained access to the Hanson home, Viper spent a great deal of time trying to have sex with Erica even though she was married to Mark.

I also didn’t buy the “Erica and Mark didn’t consummate their marriage; therefore, they weren’t legally married, and Viper’s actions were okay” excuse at the end of the book, either.

Sex

I will give Mrs. Conn credit for writing slightly better love scenes here than in her previous books, but that is damning with very faint praise.

Violence

Most of the violence takes place “off-screen.” However, there are “on-screen” scenes of assault and battery, and a slashing occurs.

Bottom Line On Tender Savage

There was the foundation for a good book in Tender Savage.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Conn was not the author to mine the gold that might have been there. Instead, the book ends up in “pewter territory.” 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

TOO FAST TO STOP
When innocent Erica Hansen fled to Minnesota to escape the Civil War’s horrors, she had no idea she was stepping right into the middle of an Indian uprising. And until a painted, whooping brave swept her onto his stallion, she never guessed how unsafe her new home really was. The curvaceous blonde struggled against her captor’s grip, but the farther they rode from civilization, the wilder her response to him became. The passionate beauty knew she should bite, scratch and kick the warrior, but before she could think of the consequences, Erica began to caress, kiss and embrace him!

TOO FAR TO RETURN
From the moment he beheld the golden-haired paleface, the Sioux fighter named Viper swore she’d never meet the white captives’ fate of torture and degradation. This was a woman created for the most ecstatic kinds of lovemaking … and the virile male would make sure he’d be the one to show her the myriad ways to enjoy pleasure. He promised himself he’d release her when the furor of the battle died down. But once the jet-haired Sioux trapped her in his arms, he realized a lifetime was too short to savor her ivory skin, to exult in her lavender scent, to take her time and again as her Tender Savage. 

TENDER SAVAGE by PHOEBE CONN