Tag Archives: western

passion wild and free duillo

Historical Romance Review: Passions Wild and Free by Janelle Taylor

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Synopsis:

MISCHIEVOUS VIXEN

After seeing her home and family destroyed by the cruel and hateful Epson gang, Randee Hollis swore revenge. The feisty young woman knew that she couldn’t do the nasty job alone — she needed one good man to help her stop the murderous villains. So when Randee literally ran into the black-clad stranger, she knew she’d found the perfect helpmate. He was strong and brave and met all of her requirements for a gunslinger … but the virile stranger offered something more. Every time Randee looked into his light blue eyes she felt a longing in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to run her fingers through his sleek ebony hair, caress his bronzed skin and know what it would be like to spend the night wrapped up in his warm embrace …

TANTALIZING ROGUE

Marsh Logan had his own reasons for wanting to help the flaxen haired beauty find revenge. But after spending sometime alone with Randee, he lost all desire for anything but the feel of her body next to his. Marsh would sacrifice his very soul for a chance to kiss away all of Randee’s troubles, to excite her until she forgot of her pain. All he wanted was to prove that he was the man who could make her happy, that he could love her like no other and unleash her sleeping PASSIONS WILD AND FREE

PASSIONS WILD AND FREE by JANELLE TAYLOR
Passions Wild and Free, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1988, Elaine Duillo cover art

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Passions Wild and Free, book #2 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

The book begins in Wadesville, Texas, undisclosed time but after the Civil War. Randee Hollis, the heroine of the book, has plans to go after the Epson Gang, a ruthless band of killers who killed her aunt and uncle, Sara Elizabeth and Lee Carson when the gang attacked their ranch. (Randee was the only survivor of the attack). She decides to hire a man to help her track down and kill the gang members. Randee finds resistance to her plans from Brody Wade, the sheriff of Wadesville-named after his family-who is in love with her and wishes to marry her.

Randee runs into–literally–Marsh Logan, the hero of the book, and hires him to work with her, believing that he is a notorious gunfighter named the Durango Kid. He’s not, but he is good with a gun and has his own reasons for wanting to find and kill the Epson Gang. As they track the gang, we learn why Randee left her family in Kansas, and she and Marsh give in to their attraction and become lovers.

As they systematically dismantle the Epson Gang, Randee and Marsh come to realize that the gang isn’t just a ragtag group of outlaws, but rather part of a bigger plan, led by someone who wants money and power.

In the end, the gang is brought to justice or killed, as is the big boss of the operation. The real Durango Kid-who is Marsh’s younger brother-appears on the scene. Randee’s family issues in Kansas are resolved. Randee and Marsh have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Both Randee and Marsh are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor gives them depth and fills them in as real people. I liked the fact that Randee was a capable person in her own right and Marsh grew to respect her skills.

Downside

Passions Wild and Free is ostensibly a historical romantic suspense book. Mrs. Taylor only got one of the three right (The historical part). There is very little chemistry between Randee and Marsh, although they become lovers and adventure partners. There is also very little in the way of suspense; most of the suspense occurs “off-screen.”

I was also quite annoyed with Mrs. Taylor’s overuse of the word “cunning”, which she uses in every book she writes. I wanted to scream several times in the reading of the book: “Why didn’t you use a freakin’ thesaurus, Mrs. Taylor?” I found myself skipping pages because at times, Passions Wild and Free was simply boring.

One other thing: this book is said to be part of a six-book series called “Western Wind”. No character from the first book in the “series”, First Love, Wild Love, appears in Passions Wild and Free. The only thing the two books so far in the “series” have in common is that both are set in Texas, which is not, in my eyes, a connection that warrants a “series” label.

Sex

The love scenes are either mostly quick or typical Janelle Taylor romances. In other words, more focused on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it.

Violence

Most of the violence is “off-screen”. On-screen violence includes assault, battery, shootings, and killings. The violence is not graphic in any way.

Bottom Line on Passions Wild and Free

Randee and Marsh deserved better than what they got from Mrs. Taylor in Passions Wild and Free.

3 Stars

tender is the storm

Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Tender Is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

So… About Johanna Lindsey‘s Tender Is the Storm.

Did You Hear the One About the Naked Guy?

A Cover Collectible

If you’re familiar with your romance history, then you must know of this book, even if you haven’t read it.

The cover of Tender Is the Storm is the notorious one designed by Robert McGinnis with the naked hero standing tall as the heroine kneels before him, her ample breasts pressed firmly against his–er…dongle.

Robert McGinnis, Cover Artist

Tender is the Storm was released in 1985 as Lindsey’s 10th consecutive bestseller. McGinnis’ artwork and Lindsey’s novels made for a powerhouse combination.

Their first two covers were pleasing enough, but starting with 1980’s Fires of Winter, McGinnis would upend the romance industry. Before that, most clinch covers would show the heroine’s heaving bosoms while the hero remained fully clothed. Fires of Winter portrayed a fully naked hero, his legs bent and splayed open, with the heroine lying between his thighs.

McGinnis was a great admirer of the sensual female form. Much of his work featured nude or scantily clad women–of all skin and hair colors–with tightly muscled yet voluptuous figures.

As a pulp, detective, and movie poster artist, he had many opportunities to display his talents for painting ladies. The romance revolution of the 1970s would now allow him to demonstrate his ability to create beautiful male figures.

I’ve said before that I am not fond of modern covers with dehumanizing headless torsos, waxed naked chests, and rippling 8-pack-abs. Even so, male eye candy is a sweet sight to behold! So thank you, Robert McGinnis, for being an equal opportunity exploiter of undressed males and females.

Yeah, He Was [CENSORED]

tender is the storm
From The Art of Robert McGinnis

I owned a first-edition copy of Tender Is the Storm when I initially read it 25 years ago. Alas, it was lost in the Great Book Purge, which I’ve spoken of many times before. Now, I’m stuck with a later edition with the hero’s ass [CENSORED].

The cover was so controversial at the time that booksellers from “coast to coast” refused to stock Tender Is the Storm on their shelves.

Avon had to rush out golden star stickers printed with “#1 EVERYWHERE” to place upon the hero’s buttocks. A second printing followed, this one with a circular starburst emblazoned upon the area of controversy, with the words “A COAST TO COAST BESTSELLER” on it.

tender is the storm
See? Now you can’t notice anything!

Did anyone really believe that no one would figure out what was going on beneath that “subtle” distraction?

The dude is titty-banging her, and she loves every minute!

About That Review of Tender Is the Storm

So… about Johanna Lindsey’s Tender Is the Storm.

Yuppers. It was a romance novel.

Perhaps if I’d read this from a “new-to-me” author, I would have enjoyed it more. Sadly, by Lindsey’s standards, this was mostly a meh read for me. She’s written much better books. (And some worse.)

The Plot

It’s the late 1800s in New York City. The Eastern heiress Sharisse Hammond finds herself fleeing from an arranged engagement to a high-society scion in a convoluted setup. Sharisse wants nothing to do with the union. When she discovers her sister is in love with the man, the two of them hatch a plan.

They find a newspaper ad a rancher placed looking for a wife. Sharisse responds to it, deciding her best option is to move out West and be a mail-order bride (to a man she knows nothing about). Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer!

Her groom turns out to be Lucas Holt. He’s a white man who’s familiar with the ways of the Native American people. He’s also a handsome devil, and Sharisse is very attracted to him.

The trouble is that she’s also attracted to Lucas’ identical twin brother, Slade. Slade shows up whenever Lucas isn’t around to torment and flirt with her.

Over time, Sharisse becomes accustomed to the arduous labors of being a Western bride. And in due course, she and Lucas draw closer. She becomes his wife in the complete sense of the word. Nevertheless, Sharisse remains strongly attracted to his bothersome twin.

Whatever will she do?

I usually appreciate a plot where the heroine is torn between twin brothers (My, that sounds absolutely naughty, doesn’t it?😋). I just wasn’t wowed here. Maybe it was the ugly font that soured me.

Final Analysis of Tender Is the Storm

This isn’t a terrible romance, not really. I judged Tender Is the Storm on a curve with the other Lindseys I’ve read and found it lacking in places.

The chemistry between Sharisse & Slade and Sharisse & Lucas was hot. But the plot was thin, even for this barely 300+ page book. The ending was predictable.

But please don’t let my opinion stop you from reading this one. Your mileage may vary.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

Headstrong heiress Sharisse Hammond wants no part of the New York society marriage that has been arranged for her. So she heads west across a vast and dangerous land–with no intention of honoring her agreement to become the mail-order bride of a rugged Arizona rancher. But Lucas Holt needs a wife–any wife–if his plan to destroy his most hated enemy is to succeed. And this gullible Eastern lady would do quite nicely. However, their separate schemes to use one another are complicated by raw, aching passion. For Lucas’s beautiful, unsuspecting pawn was not supposed to be so irresistibly alluring. And freedom-loving Sharisse never dreamed she could ever desire one man so much!

Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
old school historicals thumbnail

15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre

list of best 15 old school bodice ripper novels

15 “Best” Old-School Historical Romances

Best Bodice Rippers or Just Old School Romance?

Sweet Savage Flame has compiled a list of “the best romance novels/ bodice rippers,” demonstrating the genre’s evolution in the last third of the 20th century. These are 15 old-school historicals we consider to be must-reads for those who wish to understand the roots of the romance industry.

Detractors of these novels may disparage them as mere bodice rippers. To us, a “bodice ripper” romance is a term of endearment. We embrace it without shame. Moreover, we appreciate how pivotal that (unfairly maligned) subgenre was in the era’s early years.

There are books on this list that, indeed, are “hardcore” bodice rippers–i.e., romances where the hero forces himself on the heroine. Such was the nature of the early years of the old-school romance era. But as the list goes into the late 1980s and the 1990s, they have disappeared.

This List Has Only Some of the Best Romances; There Are Many More

Sweet Savage Flame’s position on such controversial matters is never to shrink away from the past. We look back head-on and try to investigate, analyze, reflect, and understand.

Most of our picks are seminal works that transformed the industry’s evolution. A few are so notable or unforgettable we feel they merit special appreciation.

Links to our opinions and ratings are provided in the descriptions, but five of the fifteen listed are yet to be reviewed by our staff. We have read all of these and consider them essential reads. We aim to review all books on this list in the upcoming year.

Please note this is not a complete compilation of essential works. This is just a small sample of relevant texts from the thousands of paperback romances published from 1972 to 2000.

The List of 15 Romances to Read, in Chronological Order

#1 The Flame and the Flower

best romance novel flame and flower

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss radically transformed the concept of the romance novel with The Flame and the Flower. Before its 1972 publication by Avon, romantic novels with happy endings never included “explicit” sex scenes between protagonists.

After the hero of The Flame and the Flower, Brandon Birmingham, mistakes the heroine, Heather, for a prostitute, he forces himself upon her. Too late, he discovers the girl is–was–a virgin.

Throughout this doorstopper of a book, Brandon violates Heather several more times before they mutually consent to make love. This is due to Brandon’s transformation into a kinder, more decent man, all to be worthy of Heather’s love.

Contemporary perspectives would consider Brandon’s behavior to be criminal. Nevertheless, fifty years ago, millions of readers were drawn to this love story, viewing the actions as part of the fantasy of “forced seduction.” This was ostensibly a plot device that allowed unmarried virgins to be sexually active without guilt.

The closed-door love scenes for “good girls” were now relics of the past. Although today we categorize The Flame and the Flower as old-school, it marked the start of the “modern era of romance.” The bodice ripper was born.

And the romance genre–and books overall–would never be the same.


#2 Sweet Savage Love

best bodice ripper  novel sweet savage love

Capitalizing on the success of The Flame and the FlowerRosemary Rogers first book ratcheted up the melodrama and sexiness to a new level of extreme. Rape, forced seduction, multiple partners, cheating, and violence were prevalent parts of the story.

Women couldn’t get enough of it, catapulting Rogers to fame and riches.

Sweet Savage Love sold millions and millions of copies, resulting in several sequels and spinoffs.

This revolutionary Western told the tale of Ginny Brandon and Steve Morgan. Here, Rogers’ depicted a heroine who could enjoy sex with men besides the hero.

Inevitably, it seemed this type of ultra-sexual romp would mark the course of historical romances for the foreseeable future.


#3 Moonstruck Madness

best old-school romance novel moonstruck madness

Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain‘s second outing. This novel cemented her status as an Avon “Queen of Romance.” (Although–supposedly–McBain co-authored her romance novels with her father.)

This swashbuckling old-school historical romance was a huge best-seller and the first in a popular trilogy about the Dominick Family.

The plot differed from Woodiwiss’ and Rogers’ works in that lovemaking was consensual. There was no bed-hopping, and the violence was not gratuitous.

Moonstruck Madness was a kinder, gentler offering with no bodice-ripping in sight.

Fans flocked to the more tender romantic style. It ultimately produced long-term success.


#4 The Silver Devil

best bodice ripper novel the silver devil

The Silver Devil’s Duke Domenico is possibly the most extreme anti-hero ever to appear in an old-school romance novel. 

Over 45 years after its publication, many readers frequently discuss this book still highly-talked about and consider it one of the best bodice rippers ever written. Teresa Denys’ first-person-POV romance with an Italian beauty is a gripping read from the very first lines.

The powerful and megalomaniacal Duke sees the heroine Felicia at her window, desires her, and soon purchases her from her brother. Domenico’s obsession over her reigns supreme; he goes into murderous rages at the slightest hint of jealousy.

The prose in The Silver Devil is magnificent. The scenes of violence and brutality are intense. The hero is…a complicated man. The novel ends with the typical HEA. Even so, it’s hard to see a happy ending lasting beyond the pages of this book.

If you’re fortunate enough to find the Ballantine edition with the H. Tom Hall cover, it could cost you up to several hundred dollars.


#5 Fires of Winter

fires of winter

Johanna Lindsey‘s third novel, Fires of Winter, was a Viking romance about a captive Welsh woman and her Nordic owner. Marauders raid Lady Brenna’s home, kill the men and enslave and ravish the women. They spare only Brenna from ravishment and violence as the Viking leader has plans for her. She is a valuable prize that he plans to gift as a slave to his youngest son.

Just over 300 pages long (half the length of Woodiwiss’ and Roger’s fat epics), Fires of Winter is a lean, action-packed lean, bodice ripper.

The theme here is all about the battle between the sexes. Although there is forced seduction/ rape, this romance has no cheating. That made quite a difference to many readers looking for monogamous love stories.

However, the couple does argue–a lot. This was a common trait of many of Lindsey’s earlier works.

Johanna Lindsey cemented her status as one of romance’s top best-selling authors with this bodice ripper. The Robert McGinnis romance novel cover design is legendary, featuring the first naked man on a romance cover.


#6 Skye O’Malley

skye o'malley

Skye O’Malley is “The Queen of Erotic Romance,” Bertrice Smallpiece de resistance–her magnum opus. She wrote over 50 novels, and this is her finest work.

In this Tudor-era romance, the beauteous Irish lass Skye O’Malley amasses numerous husbands, lovers, children, and enemies.

And many true loves.

This is the lustiest of bodice rippers. Skye experiences the most rollicking adventures any heroine in Romancelandia could only dream of.


#7 Savage Ecstasy

savage ecstasy

Janelle Taylor’s Savage Ecstasy wasn’t the first historical bodice ripper published by Zebra books. It wasn’t even the first best-seller out of Kensington’s flagship imprint. It was, however, the one that firmly marked the largest US independent publisher on the map as a major player. 

In the decade that followed, Zebra would be a dominant force to be reckoned with in the romance field.

Savage Ecstasy sold over a million copies, as did its sequel, Defiant Ecstasy. It spawned a long-running series that told the love stories of Gray Eagle and Alisha and their children and their spouses.

Savage Ecstasy was one of the first publications of the enormously popular Native American romance subgenre. Readers consumed these romantic novels in droves until well into the 2000s.


#8 Stormfire

old-school best romance novel stormfire

Christine Monson’s Stormfire is perhaps one of the genre’s last hardcore bodice-rippers. Stormfire made some romantic novels of the 1970s appear tame in contrast.

This tale of vengeance is extreme in its brutality. Set in Regency Era England, Ireland and Napoleonic France, it keeps hitting the reader with action and insanity.

From the moment the heroine is kidnapped and violated by the hero, we can see this is not a romance for the faint-hearted.

Like The Silver Devil, Stormfire transcended its seemingly sordid content through thoughtful, superb writing and intense characterization.

Like that other romance, this is considered one of the best bodice rippers ever. Plus, it, too, is hard to find and expensive if you do!


#9 Whitney, My Love

regency romance novel whitney my love

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught is the story of a gawky, coltish girl in love with a charming young man who barely notices her.

She goes off to finish school and returns a beauty. Then Whitney Stone finds herself forced into marriage with the dark Duke of Westmoreland. After a tumultuous beginning, they slowly learn to love one another.

Whitney, My Love is a beloved classic to this day. It reinvented the Regency romance by making it more sensual and increasing the page length and scope.


#10 A Knight in Shining Armor

old-school best romance a knight in shining armor

Jude Deveraux‘s A Knight in Shining Armor is a tear-jerker of a travel romance. Take note of the book’s cover. It was not Deveraux’s typical stepback or clinch cover but a simple design showing an encircled gauntlet holding a flower.

This was a sign of “respectability” for Deveraux, signifying that she was one of Pocket Books‘ most successful authors. A Knight in Shining Armor had been released in a hardcover edition in 1989 before being printed in paperback, extremely rare for romance writers, who had always been associated with with “pulp” genres.

The heroine, Douglass, is transported back to Tudor-era England and falls in love with an Elizabethan knight. Things take a twist when she returns to the future.

And so does the hero! But now he doesn’t recognize her.

The pair fall in love both in the past and the present eras. Will they ever find their forever somewhere in time?


#11 Gentle Rogue

best bodice ripper romances gentle rogue

Yes, Johanna Lindsey appears twice on this list–for a good reason.

Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue might not be historically accurate as for a Regency romance. Yet it’s so whimsical, romantic, witty, and the best of her Malory series; it’s a gem!

James Malory is an absolute cad. The tables are turned on him when he falls in love with a beauty disguised–quite poorly–as a cabin boy. Then Georgina abandons him at a port.

He’ll have to deal with the wrath of her five older brothers to get things straightened out.


#12 Outlander

best bodice ripper romances outlander

Although Diana Gabaldon has said that Outlander is not a romance novel, it does qualify as one–if you consider it a standalone.

It has the two elements required for the genre: a central love story that ends HEA. Although the subsequent books in the series would separate the lovers through time and space, the first entry is pure romance.

Outlander–or Cross-Stitch as it’s known elsewhere–is, at its core, a historical romance that features time travel. The married-in-the-future heroine, Claire, comes off as improbably perfect (in one scene, she fights a wolf and kills it with her bare hands!).

Jamie Frasier, however, is a favorite hero of many romance readers.

Outlander has been adapted into a popular television show, introducing new fans to this already successful novel.


#13 Flowers from the Storm

best bodice ripper romances flowers from the storm

Flowers from the Storm by the talented Laura Kinsale is an absolutely unusual yet stellar romance. Kinsale’s writing is superb. Romance is at its intellectual best here.

The plot is this: a disreputable rogue of a man succumbs to a stroke.

The Earl of Jervaulx is mainly paralyzed and incapable of speech. A prim Quaker mathematician takes on the daunting task of rehabilitating him. Soon, they discover that he has a secret baby from his married mistress when the child is dropped off at his home.

How can such two disparate people be happy together?

This emotional, exquisitely written book is one of the 1990s best romance novels and deserves a look.


#14 Dreaming of You

best romance books DREAMING OF YOU

Although we prefer its predecessor, Then Came You, the Regency-era romance Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas is a monumental book that catapulted the author to superstardom.

Readers adore the hero, Derek Craven. The sexy, snaggle-toothed London rough pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He now runs a gaming hall and brothel.

Craven falls for a curious, bespectacled young woman named Sara. She turns his entire world asunder with her wondering innocence.


#15 Lord of Scoundrels

best romance novels LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

In Loretta Chase’s old-school Regency-era romance, Lord of Scoundrels, The Marquess of Dain was abused as a child for his ugliness and grew up thinking himself worthless. So he now engages in a life of debauched chaos.

Dain meets his match in Jessica Trent, who initially seeks vengeance against him. She then changes course and fall in love.

However, after he dishonors her, Jessica shoots Dain. This makes Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels a controversial romance in some eyes and a must-read in others.

While the rippers of the 1970s were now a remnant of the past, the power dynamics between males and females remained paramount in the genre.


Your Opinion

Again, this is not a complete syllabus of the best historical books in romance. We could have made this list much longer, but we settled on only 15 books. Now we want to hear from you.

What old-school historical romance do you think we left off this list? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Do you think any of these books rank as the best in romance?

How do you feel about bodice ripper romances? If you were creating a list of best contemporary romances, which books would you choose?

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

Desperado Dream sabin

Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review: Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Here, Introvert Reader explains her negative perspective of Karen A. Bale’s historical romance, Desperado Dream. Blue Falcon, on the other hand, gave it a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating.

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

False Advertising

The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.

I did know the heroine was married, as it clearly states in the book blurb:

“[W]hile her husband was away, [Lisa,] the auburn-haired beauty found it hard to deny her own passionate nature, especially when Cruz, the handsome desperado, commandeered her ranch. And when he captured her and took her to his mountain hideaway, where she was forced at gunpoint to pretend to be his bride, her protests were only half-hearted, for she found herself on the verge of surrendering to the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.”

BOOK DESCRIPTION OF DESPERADO DREAM

But I had assumed this was one of those historical romances where the husband is a creep and dies, leaving the hero & heroine to be together. It wasn’t.

The Plot

So Lisa & Eric are married, he leaves her and their daughter behind to take care of business matters. Lisa’s not happy about her husband leaving them alone without protection. Then this gorgeous hunk, Cruz, and his fellow banditos show up at Lisa’s ranch to take her land.

While the rest of the criminal gang are ruthless men, Cruz is kinder and gentler. He protects Lisa and keeps the men away from her, drawing antagonism from the rest of the crew.

Events turn sour and Lisa and Cruz have to pretend to be married so the men won’t molest her. At gunpoint, they are forced to prove to the banditos that their marriage is real. Cruz has sex with Lisa in a very unsexy scene where she is tearful and thinks about her husband.

The thing is, Lisa’s protests against Cruz’s lovemaking aren’t half-hearted. They’re real. She never surrenders to “the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.” While Cruz is in love with her, Lisa is still madly in love with her husband, Eric, the real “hero” of this book. The man who abandoned her at the beginning of the story is the man she ends up with. That would have been fine for me if: 1) The blurb hadn’t implied Cruz was the hero, and 2) If Lisa had spent most of the book with Eric rather than Cruz.

Lisa becomes pregnant and chooses to stay with Cruz as opposed to going back to Eric and their child. There’s an other-woman, Teresa, who has designs on both of Lisa’s men.

Only after Lisa suffers a miscarriage due to the evil villainess’s machinations does Lisa leave a heartbroken Cruz behind. She really should have ended up with him because to me, Cruz seemed to love her more genuinely than Eric, who was a bit of a selfish prick.

Final Analysis of Desperado Dream

Perhaps if I had first read the precursor to Desperado Dream, called The Forever Passion, which was published over a decade prior, I would have felt differently. But as it was, I was devastated by the ending. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I think this is the first book that was in pristine condition that I ever tossed into the garbage.

I can’t recommend this book, that is unless you’ve read The Forever Passion and want to see the continuing adventures of Eric and Lisa in a book where they’re separated most of the time.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

sweetsavageheart

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor

book review historical romance
Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 576
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Janelle Taylor‘s Sweet Savage Heart, a Zebra Lovegram historical romance, begins in Dakota Territory, in May 1867.

The Setup

It is here that an Oglala Indian maiden, Wild Wind, is troubled, for she is arguing with her brother, Lone Wolf, over her future.

Wild Wind is not actually Indian at all. Her name is Rana Michaels, and she was adopted into her band of Lakotas by Soaring Hawk, a Lakota chief who stole her from the Kiowa tribe which captured and enslaved her after they killed her parents, Marissa Crandall Michaels and Raymond Michaels.

Rana is conflicted about her life, and things are about to get more complicated.

The Plot

In Texas, rancher Nathan Crandall, owner of the Bar-C ranch and Rana’s grandfather, sees a painting of her and realizes it’s his granddaughter.

He asks his foreman, Travis Kincade, the hero of the book, for help in getting Rana back. Travis is half-Hunkpapa Lakota Indian and half-white. Their efforts are successful. However, there are complications due to many factors, including Rana herself.

However, she does agree to go with Nathan and Travis, and on the way to the ranch, Rana and Travis become lovers.

According to Oglala customs, that signifies marriage. White law doesn’t recognize this, however.

Back in Texas, however, there are major problems for the men, and now Rana. Nathan and Travis’ neighbor, Harrison Caldwell, and his daughter, Clarissa, have been using various means–mostly illegal–to force out all the ranchers in their valley in an attempt to create an empire for themselves.

The only rancher they haven’t forced out yet is Nathan, although they’re trying.

Upon their return to Texas, Harrison and Clarissa put their plan in motion to drive Nathan off his land. Nathan, Travis, and Rana help counter these actions. As the book goes on, secrets are revealed and a tragedy occurs.

In the end, the good guys defeat the Caldwells. Rana and Travis marry by white man’s law. They have two children and get their Happily Ever After.

sweetsavageheart
Sweet Savage Heart, reissue

Upside

In the past, I have frequently criticized authors for their lack of character development. That is certainly not the case here. Mrs. Taylor delves deeply into the characters of Rana, Travis, and Marissa. Rana and Travis are both strong characters.

I liked the fact that Rana had the opportunity to use the skills she learned as an Oglala to help Nathan and Travis.

Downside

Slightly nitpicky here, but the chapters average 28+ pages long. Even though people may have more time to read these days due to what is going on in the world, the chapters could have been shorter.

Sex

Multiple sex scenes, most of which feature Mrs. Taylor’s purple prose.

Violence

Assault and battery, attempted rape, attempted murder, shootings with bow and arrows and guns, and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Sweet Savage Heart

Sweet Savage Heart is one of Janelle Taylor’s best books.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Kidnapped when she was a child, eighteen-year-old Rana Michaels couldn’t imagine any life other than her carefree existence among the Sioux. Then the white man Travis Kincade appeared in her camp, and the flame-haired beauty’s peace was shattered forever. But when he traded a few trinkets for her freedom, Rana vowed to slay him before returning to her people.

Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor
captive melody nadine crenshaw

Historical Romance Review: Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw

Synopsis:

When a handsome stranger overpowered her in her boudoir right after her marriage ceremony, inexperienced Laura Upton was too frightened to do more than faint. Later when she awoke, the scarcely clad beauty found herself on a galloping horse, in the powerful embrace of her virile kidnapper. How dare this riff-raff deprive her of the most romantic night of her life! Stroking her creamy flesh as she struggled, the bold cowboy whispered how wicked a man her husband was — and the ebony haired beauty didn’t know whether she should rejoice she was rescued… or be terrified she’d be ravaged. 

CAPTIVE MELODY by NADINE CRENSHAW

***Welcome Blue Falcon to SweetSavageFlame.com, who will be contributing his great reviews to this site. Here, in his first review, he analyzes Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw***

SPOILER ALERT

The Book

This review is of Captive Melody, a standalone Zebra from January 1989 by Nadine Crenshaw.

The Plot

The book starts in July 1876, Northern California. A young wife, Ling Kee (I’m writing her name in the traditional Chinese way, last name first), is brutally attacked by three “men”. Among them is Richard Laird, a rancher. After being beaten and raped, Ling Kee commits suicide.

Fast forward five years. Laird has just married Laura Upton, the heroine of the book. Their marriage won’t last, however, as on their wedding night, Laura is kidnapped by Andre Sheridan, the hero of the book and Ling Kee’s husband. Andre plans to hold Laura as bait to draw Richard to Andre’s home and kill him.

As Andre takes Laura further away from Laird, they become attracted to each other, later acting on that attraction. Andre later takes Laura to one of his homes–he is quite wealthy–and their relationship deepens. One person not happy about this is Ling Soo, Andre’s housekeeper, and Ling Kee’s father, who tries to break up their relationship.

After some time together, Andre sends Laura back to Laird. Big mistake. He tries to rape Laura and beats her brutally. Laurea leaves Laird–say that three times quickly–and gets a job in a pharmacy. She also discovers she’s pregnant with Andre’s baby and obtains another suitor, Yale Talbot,

Andre finds Laura after a long search and breaks up her relationship with Talbot. Andre then compels Laura to marry him. They are happy for a while-Laura is pregnant-but then Laird shows up again. A violent confrontation takes place between Andre and Laird, and Laird is killed, not by Andre, but by Laura.

In the end, Laura becomes a famous concert pianist-fulling a dream her stepmother had for her-and Laura, Andre, and their daughter to have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The fact that I finished it, which was accomplished only by speed reading and skimming. The reasons are explained below.

Downside

Captive Melody contains two tropes I HATE in books: revenge by proxy and Stockholm Syndrome. They’re both here, and they’re both terrible.

Question: Why do “heroes” in these books go after defenseless, innocent women? The answer: they’re really cowards. Going after a man requires emotional, financial, mental, and physical strength. There is also the possibility that the “hero” could get killed. Going after a woman: most of those things are much less likely to happen, especially when the woman is an oatmeal, milquetoast heroine like Laura Upton.

Andre is, to put it simply, an abusive, arrogant, brutal, egotistical, possessive, predatory, self-centered, uncaring, unfeeling bastard. There are no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever.

Now, for an equal opportunity unloading on Laura, who is the dumbest romance novel heroine I’ve read since Eugenia Scott in Cassie Edwards’ putrid Eugenia’s Embrace. To be fair to her, she has been abused her entire life, first by her stepmother, then by Laird, then by Andre, then Yale, and finally back to Andre. Also be fair, Andre doesn’t physically strike Laura–big whoop–but every other action toward Laura is abusive) She has all the personality of white bread and similar intelligence.

Sex

One really good love scene and there are others, but the scene is dampened by the fact that Andre manipulated Laura into having sex with him, then used her lust for him to coerce more sexual favors as the book goes on.

Violence

When Laura goes back to Laird, he brutally beats her. Later, Andre and Laird have their confrontation; which is violent, before Laura shoots and kills Laird. The first scene is somewhat graphic; the latter is not.

Bottom Line on Captive Melody

If it were possible to give less than one star to a book, Captive Melody would be the one. I’m not going to say “I’ll never read another book by” this author, Ms. Crenshaw, but Captive Melody certainly doesn’t inspire any enthusiasm for any books I’ll read by her in the future. 

1 Star

texas torment

Historical Romance Review: Texas Torment by Catherine Creel

historical romance review
Texas Torment by Catherine Creel
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Oliviero Berni
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Texas Torment by Catherine Creel

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Texas Torment, a Zebra Lovegram by Catherine Creel is set in Texas, naturally, in the post-Civil War era. In this book, Adelaide has left her husband Daniel and Daniel seeks her out again.

Catherine Creel liked using the “secretly married couple that is separated & then reunited under crazy circumstances” plot, didn’t she? She had a similar thing going on in the much more fun Passion’s Chains.

The Plot

Daniel’s a Yankee, while Adelaide’s family were Confederates. Daniel and Adelaide fell in love and eloped, but the war tore them apart.

Adelaide’s family moved to Texas to start a ranch. Daniel pursues and finds her, buying a neighboring ranch of his own. He agrees to keep their marriage a secret from her family and the townsfolk but is determined to win her love again.

Adelaide is an abrasive heroine and I really could not understand why she was so adamant against being with Daniel. He is such a better hero than she deserved.

Final Analysis of Texas Torment

I wish I knew where I put this book because I had some passages marked noting Daniel’s awesomeness. However, at almost 500 pages, this premise wore thin, leading to a so-so experience. It took me so long to finish Texas Torment that it became Introvert Reader’s Torment!

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
2
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
4
Overall: 2.6

The Yankee

Historical Romance Review: The Yankee by Kristin James

The Yankee, Kristine James, Harlequin, 1990, Max Ginsburg cover art

Harlequin Historical #57

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Plot

In Kristin James’ (aka Candace Camp) The Yankee, Andrew Stone is a former Union soldier now living in Texas. He’s a stodgy fellow, not well-liked by the local folks, and has a bad reputation. He had an unhappy marriage and now has a young daughter he has to raise by himself.

Miss Margaret Carlisle is a spinster who cares for her orphaned younger siblings. She’s not exactly the most charming person in the world either, although she has reasons not to be.

Together, Andrew and Margaret decide upon a marriage of convenience, as Andrew needs a mother for his daughter, and Margaret wants not to be dependent upon her cruel aunt’s charity.

I recollect that Andrew was a very cold man, and it took a lot of time for his heart to warm up to his efficient, capable bride. His heart had been pretty much torn to pieces by his ex-wife. With Margaret being who she is, it slowly heals, while she learns there’s more to Andrew than his gruff veneer. The kids in the book were cute, too.

Final Analysis of The Yankee

I gave The Yankee a three-star rating because it’s one of those Harlequin Historicals I read long ago, I don’t remember every detail of the plot, but I do recall feeling satisfied with the love story, although it wasn’t a book I wanted to read over and over again.

It was a nice story of two people who needed one another coming together, and that’s pretty much all I have to say about The Yankee.

runaway bride

Historical Romance Review: Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook

runaway bride
Runaway Bride, Rosalyn Alsobrook, Zebra, 1987, John Ennis cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook left a bad taste in my mouth. While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful. Either they were boring or just freaking bizarre.

The Plot

Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness when the hero, Jason, comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy and is even willing to be a father to her child.

Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced her to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.

The book was written to keep you guessing up until the end who she would choose. The heroine genuinely thought that besides beating the hell out of her, her husband was a good man. And maybe at one point in his life, he was, but he let major demons take over, and he ruined that goodness. Fortunately, the heroine ended up with Jason, but the fact that this book even tried to pull a love triangle plot was disgusting. Katherine should have had nothing but hatred for her husband.

And at the final pages of the story, do we see the happiness that Katherine and Jason should have had? Well, sure, they lived a long married life together, but the epilogue was bizarre and floored me. The son of Katherine and her first husband stands at his father’s grave, weeping for him, and pretty much says, “No matter what happened, Dad, you were a great man, and I’m sorry I never got to know how wonderful you were.”

Final Analysis of Runaway Bride

Look, I’m no pearl-clutcher when it comes to controversial issues. I love un-PC bodice rippers. I can deal with a lot of craziness and don’t take offense too much (except boredom). Having a heroine who was in love with her drunk husband who mercilessly beat her was a very difficult pill to swallow. I don’t think Rosalyn Alsobrook handled the topic well.

I remember feeling sick after reading this, and that was 30 years ago. The feeling stays with me to this day when I think about Runaway Wife.

1 Star

texas princess blake

Historical Romance Review: Texas Princess by Veronica Blake

Texas Princess, Veronica Blake, Zebra, 1992, Robert Sabin cover art

1 1/2 Stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Princess of Which State?

As usual, the folks at Zebra were just slapping generic titles onto these books! Only a tiny portion of Veronica Blake’s Texas Princess takes place in Texas. The hero and heroine travel across the western US, and they only get to the Lonestar State at the tail end of the book.

My main recollection of this tepid romance is while reading, I kept wondering: “When do they get to Texas? The book’s almost over. What about Texas?” Not a good sign. The editors could have gone with something like Gypsy Princess (although perhaps in today’s environment, that would be seen as insensitive), Emerald Princess, or Forbidden Passions. I checked & no other romance novels had those titles.

As for the book itself?

Sad to say that Texas Princess was a forgettable Heartfire. Tasmin, the eponymous Texas princess who is not actually royalty from America’s 28th state, is betrothed to the leader of her Roma tribe. He’s a kind and handsome man. However, she falls for a gadjo cowboy drifter, Blayde (I think that was his name) instead.

He watches her intently as she dances by a fire. Tasmin feels Blayde’s gaze upon her. She is drawn to this strange man, even though it spells her damnation.

Passion ensues.

Because of her forbidden passion, Tasmin is banished from all that is familiar to her. The hero has his inner demons to battle and isn’t looking for commitment. Destiny ties them together as he and Tasmin trek through the West. Tasmin & Blayde only have each other for support, yet can these two people from differing backgrounds make true love work?

Not for nothing, but this is a standard romance novel, so what else do you think is going to happen?

Final Analysis of Texas Princess

Dull, dull book. I love Zebra romances in general, but on an individual level, a lot of them were unremarkable. I’ll give this one an extra half star because I like the cover.

texas tempest

Historical Romance Review: Texas Tempest by Deana James

historical romance review

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Zebra‘s Texas Tempest features yet another great, steel-willed Deana James heroine. James has written many resilient heroines before. Such heroines include the ones from the seafaring antebellum romance, Captive Angel, and the medieval, Lovespell.

The Heroine

The prologue of Texas Tempest begins with Eugenia Leahy being beaten by her no-good drunkard of a husband, Cormac. When he goes after her daughter, that’s when mama bear springs into action. Eugenia grabs a firearm and shoots him, paralyzing the abuser for life!

We then flash forward 10-15 years later. Eugenia is running her ranch and doing a great job at it. Tough, cold, and stern, Eugenia is known as “The Diamondback,” deadly as her namesake is. But she is still a woman in a world dominated by men. She needs some muscle to enforce her rules.

Enter the mysterious MacPherson, a gunslinger who saves Eugenia’s life. He is exactly the man Eugenia needs.

The action is intense here. On page 75, Eugenia Leahy has shot already three men. You don’t mess with the Diamondback!

As usual, Deana James’ heroines are the major draw of her books.

The Hero

In a Deana James romance, a hero who matches the heroine in greatness is pure icing on the cake. And what a hero he is!

MacPherson was the little boy from Texas Storm. His Comanche father rejected him, declaring him dead. So MacPherson was forced to walk naked, following after his tribe. He lived off their leavings. He was adopted by the protagonists of that book, Reiver MacPherson, and his wife, Mercedes-Maria.

Mac is 5 years younger than the 35-year-old Eugenia. This is a major concern for her since in the mid-19th century older women generally did not have relationships with younger men. Even if they were their secret lovers.

Yes, MacPherson and Eugenia become lovers and except for her husband, their romance has the all-clear. Eugenia’s daughter approves and that’s the only person whose opinion matters to her.

The Plot

As usual in a Deana James book, romance is not the only plot point. Texas Tempest is a high-stakes western drama. There’s a lot of lovemaking. There’s also even more action.

An evil rancher has designs on Eugenia’s land. His men capture Macpherson. They then beat and whip him, before attempting to hang him. Yet he miraculously survives despite all his violent suffering.

The grandee arranges to kidnap Eugenia. Then a whoremonger purchases her. Thankfully, MacPherson is able to save her just in time.

There is a scene where Mac is forced by the villains to hurt Eugenia and it disgusts him.

Like an automaton, MacPherson struck again. Only by remaining absolutely motionless could he control the anger that was rising in him. Far from being aroused by the spectacle, his own feelings were revolted. His own sexuality he recognized as propinquity, tenderness, caring, the beauty, and gentleness of a woman’s body. The infliction of pain, even pseudo-pain, excited him not at all.

So our hero isn’t into dominating BDSM or using force on a woman. MacPherson may be a man of mystery, but he’s very simple in his preference. He has nothing but appreciation and love for the female body. Sex is not entwined with violence for him. Very refreshing for a retro hero.

The main conflict keeping Eugenia and Mac from getting together permanently isn’t her husband because we readers know:

1) Eugenia doesn’t give a damn about Cormac!

and

2) Her ailing, wheelchair-bound husband is going to die in the end, anyway.

It’s when MacPherson’s true heritage is discovered that Eugenia’s insecurities come to the forefront. Not only is MacPherson more than the simple loner she initially thought he was, but then Eugenia feels abandoned by her teenage daughter. The girl finds love with the son of a prosperous Spanish family.

Final Analysis of Texas Tempest

Texas Tempest got a little drawn out for me after the 70% mark, so this enthralling read turned into just a very entertaining one.

Regardless, for me, it’s another 4-star keeper by Deana James. This is one I will have to reread just for how tenacious and capable Eugenia was, a woman of that greatest and rarest of strengths: fortitude.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

SHE NEEDED TO HAVE HIM
Jet-haired Eugenia Leahy was sensuous and slender with an iron will that intimidated even the most powerful of men. Then a handsome stranger rescued her after a bad fall and the steel-hearted beauty suddenly felt soft and vulnerable. With one caress her body yearned to clasp him in an intimate embrace. But Eugenia had struggled too long for independence and vowed to drive away the man who threatened her freedom with the weakness of desire!

HE HAD TO POSSESS HER
When virile, towering MacPherson first saw the petite, fragile form sprawled at his feet, he knew he would ultimately make love to her. His blood clamored to be one with her and his passion rose as never before. Then Eugenia stirred, opening eyes filled with challenge and anger. In that moment, MacPherson resolved to take her soon, whether she consented or not, with all the force and fury of a raging Texas Tempest.

TEXAS TEMPEST by DEANA JAMES
the wildest heart rogers

Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 608
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

In Rosemary RogersThe Wildest Heart, Lady Rowena Dangerfield is a beautiful woman who men value for her beauty, wealth, or both.

Rowena was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. She was indifferent to men. Despite their passion for her, she could not love anyone except outlaw Lucas Cord.

For Lucas, Rowena was willing to renounce her inheritance or even die with him in the perilous mountains. Despite his conflicted past, Lucas was the only man to love Rowena for herself alone.

The Negative Aspects

Although I mainly read romance for the love story, I enjoy experiencing the heroine’s travails. I appreciate seeing a heroine’s struggles through life, as the hero is relegated to the background while the she thrives and matures. In a way, The Wildest Heart is one of those books.

Normally this would be enough for me. But Rogers is too passionate a writer to keep the hero as the mere prize the heroine wins at the end for completing her journey.

On top of that, the book ran too long.

Wicked Loving Lies was longer, yet every page of that novel was packed with action. I couldn’t wait to see what WTFery occurred next. Here the 1st-person-POV hinders the pace here because, naturally, there will be more introspection. The action is lean, the mental musings are long.

When He Loves Two Women

Other than a hero who weeps over his dead wife or lover, the only trope I hate more is a Mama’s boy. Lucas is no Mama’s boy, but he is obsessed and in love with the woman he as a boy thought was his mother. That sticky situation puts him in a weird gray category until the end.

The bewitching Elena is much older than Lucas but doesn’t look it. (Wouldn’t it be nice for once if the sexy older woman actually looked like a sexy older woman rather than preternaturally young?)

Lucas had been a lonely boy raised by the Apache. Later, he wasn taken in by his Mexican father, who had no love for him.

Elena manipulated young Lucas and gave him love when he had never known any before. She taught him to hate Todd Shannon, part-owner of the SD Ranch.

This was all heard second hand by Rowena. If I had seen it through Lucas’ eyes or read about it in his head, I’d have appreciated his story more and thus feel more satisfied overall.

rosemary rogers the wildest heart

I Needed More Perspectives

If The Wildest Heart hadn’t been written primarily in a 1st-person diary format, I would have loved it for the epic range of emotion and intrigue. It would have been a thrill ride on a par with Rogers’ other great bodice rippers, Sweet Savage Love & the previously mentioned Wicked Loving Lies.

Rowen was the overwhelming focus. As much as I understood and admired her, I needed other perspectives.

It would have been fine if the action was interspersed with Rowena’s diary entries. There should have been other characters’ viewpoints.

That only the prologue and epilogue were written in 3rd-person was a huge mistake. With a novel of such a grand scope, more than just Rowena’s thoughts were needed.

Other Gripes

One thing I’m certain about is that Rebecca Brandewyne read this novel, for I can see the influences of The Wildest Heart in Brandewyne’s magnum opus, Love Cherish Me.

It’s all here:

  • The grand scope of a western epic.
  • The fast-shooting cowboy of Spanish descent who raised among the Indians and speaks with a pronounced Western drawl.
  • A black-haired heroine on her way west to an unknown future.
  • A powerful, older rancher who demands the heroine’s hand in marriage.
  • The rancher’s younger relative who loves the heroine and fools her into thinking he’s a good guy.

Wait, there’s more!:

  • The murder trial.
  • The scandalous couple united against the world at the end.
  • And the epilogue as they head into town with their children, while the townspeople wag their tongues about their past shocking antics.

I adored Love Cherish Me. It’s one of my top 10 or 15 bodice rippers, along with the other Rosemary Rogers romances. The Wildest Heart doesn’t reach that level of adoration.

Why not? For being such a smart woman, Rowena certainly made stupid decisions.

She ignored her dead father’s urgent request to read his diaries as she simply didn’t feel like doing so. Sloth is certainly my favorite sin, but she could have skipped to the end of those diaries and taken a gander at what the brouhaha was about.

Then her dumb mistake of trusting the obviously telegraphed villain!

We gave each other, with our bodies, the commitment that neither of us dared put into words. We mated. There is no other word for it. We were equal—man and woman; neither asking what we could not give…

Now, the Positive Aspects

When it came to Elena versus Rowena, those scenes were awesome. I wanted more Rowena-Elena showdowns.

Two alpha women fighting not just for a man but for power over all. I love a great villainess; she makes the heroine stronger.

As said, I appreciated Rowena’s cold personality, which was her coping mechanism to deal with a crazed life. She was certainly passionate where Lucas was concerned.

It was a pleasant surprise that there was no annoying gypsy dancing on Rowena’s part. A heroine dancing like a gypsy in a Rogers novel is akin to a woman from the British Isles being captured and placed in a harem for a Bertrice Small plot. It’s what they do.

The book’s climax was thrilling as in the last chapters, Lucas and Rowena head into the mountains to flee from her wicked husband and fight off armed soldiers.

The passionate relationship between Lucas and Rowena. This was more passion felt by Rowena than by Lucas. Although I prefer a slightly enigmatic hero, it’s nice to know his feeling for the heroine, too.

Finally, was the wonderful epilogue where we did see Lucas’s thoughts. How much more fabulous would it have been if we’d known more of them? If not thoughts, then to witness his actions firsthand without Rowena hearing of them secondhand.

Final Analysis of The Wildest Heart

The ending did make up for the first third of The Wildest Heart, where Lucas was nowhere to be found. I adored this passage near the finale:

They looked into each other’s faces; searching, renewing, re-evaluating. It was as if, without words, Rowena was saying: “I love you, and I have chosen you. There is room in our lives for other people too, now that we are sure of each other.

The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers was a gripping read, with compelling characters. But it doesn’t rank among the best bodice rippers ever.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

No man can own Rowena Dangerfield–a sensuous, strong-willed lady with a fiery, unchained spirit–though many desire her. She had come to claim her birthright, following her destiny to the sprawling New Mexican frontier…and to the only man who can tame her restless heart.

A handsome half-Apache branded an outlaw–a rebel and renegade feared throughout the territories–Lucas Cord’s body and soul cry out for the beautiful, headstrong stranger who has burst into his world. And neither peril nor the treachery of desperate men will prevent him from taking what he wants…or restrain a rampaging passion as wild and hot as the Southwestern winds.

THE WILDEST HEART by ROSEMARY ROGERS
while passion sleeps bennett

Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

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


Historical Romance Review: While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heroine

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

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

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

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

while passion sleep ebook

The Plot

Part One

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

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

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

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

Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

An Aside: Language Lesson

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, the language lesson is over.

My Opinion

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

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

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

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

A Mustache Aside

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

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

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

while passion sleeps
Mauricio Islas as Rafael… yummy!

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

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

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

Final Analysis of While Passion Sleeps

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

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

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

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

WHILE PASSION SLEEPS by SHIRLEE BUSBEE
love cherish me brandewyne

Historical Romance Review: Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne

historical romance review
Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Aguilar's Fate #1
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 574
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I first read Love, Cherish Me many years ago as a teenager, so it’s a long-time favorite.

You have to read this book as a lover of the genre because Rebecca Brandewyne is at her bodice-rippiest.

Rebecca Brandewyne, Author

What I loved about many of Rebecca Brandewyne’s past romances was their baroque style. For example, every so often, she’d pose on the back of the book wearing a dress similar to what the heroine wore on the front cover.

At the beginning of the novel, a poem detailed the love story. Then there was a great list of the cast of characters. The book was broken into several parts. Then to start, there was a prologue, often with the couple together. Finally, the epic novels ended with an epilogue.

And don’t forget the Elaine Duillo cover art. In the 1980s, that was practically de rigeur for a romance diva.

What can I say? I’ve always preferred intricate, elaborate heavy metal or progressive rock rather than streamlined, gritty punk. So it’s no surprise my taste in romances is no different.

The Plot

Part One

Love Cherish Me book is a great western saga. For that reason, you can expect it to be full of murder, sex, death, and trauma. Get your hankies out, because his one is a tearjerker!

The heroine is a Southern belle named Storm Aimee Lesconflair. The hero is a dark stranger people call “Lobo,” or Wolf. On her way out West to marry a stranger, her carriage is held up, and Storm is kidnapped. But her kidnappers make a fatal mistake.

Storm’s life is decided in a fatal card game played by Lobo and her abductors.

Before she knows it, she is violently pulled into the lone gambler/gunslinger’s life.

The tale is epic, set in the epic state of Texas. Storm finds herself in one harrowing situation after another. Villains almost rape her on multiple occasions, but Wolf is there to save her.

Wolf is a dark, sexy hombre of mysterious heritage. Not only does he speak fluent Spanish, but he knows the ways of the Comanche. He also dresses in nothing but black clothes, smokes cheroots, and calls Storm “baby.”

Part Two

For a while, Storm and Lobo have an idyllic life together before circumstances separate them.

Afterward, Storm is forced to make difficult choices to survive. She becomes the unwilling bride of a man she hates.

Then tragedy strikes. Storm is accused of and put on trial for murder.

And most tragically of all, she undergoes the worst pain a mother can feel.

Will she ever find her beloved again?

Final Analysis on Love Cherish, Me

Before finally being reunited with her soul mate, Storm must face the worst a woman can encounter.

Love Cherish, Me is a companion piece to And Gold Was Ours. The latter book was swashbucklingly fun but not as great as this.

The only Brandewyne book I like more than this is her Gothic romance reminiscent of Bronte’s Wuthering HeightsUpon a Moon-Dark Moor.

The conclusion to Love Cherish Me is bittersweet. The book ends with an epilogue of Storm, Lobo, and their family who skirt the fringes of acceptable society. Brandewyne created a masterpiece of a romance here.

Love, Cherish Me wrenches all sorts of emotions from the reader. As hard as it is to describe the complicated feelings it evoked, I am forever glad to have experienced them.

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:

Storm was her name and her destiny… Born on a night when lightning flashed and thunder rolled, the raven-haired beauty was sixteen before the promise of her name became the path of her life… Born to wealth, the belle of five counties wagered away to a middle-aged rancher by her wastrel uncle. On her way to Texas to marry Gabriel North, she was captured by outlaws — and wagered away again by her captor to a blue-eyed bounty hunter, a dark-skinned gunslinger called El Lobo, the wolf. A man who could kill in cold blood, then take her with fire and tenderness when she whispered to him.

LOVE CHERISH ME by REBECCA BRANDEWYNE
escape not my love outside

Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman

historical romance review
Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Leslie Pellegrino-Peck
Published by: Dell
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 468
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

As I’ve mentioned before, Elaine Coffman‘s Escape Not My Love was not my first venture into romance. It was, however, was my first historical. And for that, I am grateful.

This is a fantastic western romance that took me on an emotional ride.

escape not my love western romance
Escape Not My Love, Elaine Coffman, Dell, 1990, Leslie Pellegrino-Peck cover art

Escape Not My Love, My First Historical Romance

Superficially, Escape Not My Love drew me in from the outset. It had a stunning stepback, designed with a pattern of a woman’s purple and white-flowered gown. The cover opened to reveal the protagonists embracing in a Laura Ashley-designed clinch. (Thank God for that step-back! I first read this as I sat in church, waiting for my turn to enter the confessional and talk to the priest. He didn’t know what kind of trashy book I was reading, and I wasn’t about to volunteer that tidbit. Ha!)

The book quickly drew me in and I instantly fell in love with the genre. I found in historicals a frequent theme of this thrilling battle of the sexes that was lacking from most of the tame Harlequin Romances and modern Temptations I was used to. (I had yet to discover the Presents line).

While hardcore “bodice rippers” no longer dominated the market as they had in years past, in the early 1990’s most heroes in historical romances had not yet been gelded into modern-minded wankers that are so prevalent today. I’m being snarky and don’t mean to offend, but that’s just my no-holds-barred opinion.

If contemporary readers prefer forward-thinking, sensitive gunslingers, Vikings, warriors, noblemen, etc., in their historicals, well as they say: Chacun à ses goûts, n’est-ce pas? 

I prefer my historical heroes to have a rougher edge.

The girl would be more than a job to him. He had known it the moment he’d looked at her face. Was that why her eyes were so wide and round? Because she knew it too? It was ordained and irrevocable. Sometime. Somewhere. Somehow. He would take her to his bed.

The Plot

In this western romance, Jay Culhane is a bounty hunter. His job is to travel deep into Mexico where armed criminals roam and bring home the well-meaning but naïve heroine, Jennifer Baxter, who moved from TX to open a school for underprivileged children. Jennifer–who is the youngest of 11 girls–is used to getting her way.

So you know this book will be one long power play between the pair.

Jay kicks down the door of her little house when he first lays eyes upon her black-haired, violet-eyed (of course!), lingerie-clad body. Lust takes over reason, and he immediately orders Jenny to strip naked at gunpoint and then enjoys the show. Cuz that’s the kind of guy he is.

Jay takes Jennifer on a long, arduous trip back to Texas.

He’s occasionally violent, at times even abusive to Jenny. To prevent her from escaping, he ties her to the back of his horse and makes her walk in the scorching midday sun while he rides comfortably wearing a protective hat. He forces her to cook meals and punishes her with kisses–to which she responds with passion!

Yet he also treats her sores and wounds with gentleness, not to mention ill-hidden guilt. He kills snakes for her when she cries out in terror and unflinchingly murders renegade Bandidos who try to kidnap and rape Jennifer.

My Opinion

When I first read Escape Not My Love, I was twelve years old, and my parents had just divorced, so I had begun to immerse myself in books for escape. It sounds a bit trite to say a romance changed my life–and I won’t be so extreme as to go that far. However, this book definitely influenced me in a profound way.

It gave me something to look forward to and enjoy: hope. The love story between Jay and Jennifer is phenomenal.

Elaine Coffman’s writing is so rich and lyrical. It’s moving. And yes, happy tears form every time I read that sweet ending.

Read the Original Version of This Western Romance

I will mention that if you want to see this western, old-school romance portrayed at its best, read the original edition. I would not recommend the re-issue that came out in 1997. “Jay-lite” isn’t as sexy as the tortured, lone-wolf of the 1990 version.

escape not my love
Escape Not My Love, Elaine Coffman, Ballantine, 1997 re-edited version, cover artist unknown

I dislike that many romance writers think all readers take offense at the “traditionally macho” heroes of old. Today, the worst types of anti-heroes and tortured, abusive man-hoes are accepted in contemporaries, Dark Erotica, New Adults, and lots of paranormals–where anything can happen.

Meanwhile, men who lived 100, 500, or 1,000 years ago have to be represented as ultra-sensitive proto-feminists. The fact that historicals have so many SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guys) type heroes makes me wary of reading modern romances.

Yup, I’m an old fart, what can I say?

Final Analysis of Escape Not, My Love

Nostalgia may have a bit to do with my ratings of older books. Regardless, I’ve read this many times over the years, and for me, Elaine Coffman’s Escape Not My Love holds up.

If you don’t like cruel heroes who treat the heroine nastily from the get-go, keep in mind that a devastating past tormented Jay. It’s his love for Jennifer that teaches him to let go of the old hurts.

The epilogue might have you reaching for your hankies. Or make you smile as the tough-hombre Jay Culhane settles down into married life with children.

I wasn’t the only reader who loved this book. Escape Not My Love (in its original un-PC form) won the 1990 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Western Historical Romance.

Because it was my first historical romance, and one that–to this day–I extremely enjoy, it’s a keeper.

5 Stars

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

SYNOPSIS

A GENTLY BRED HELLION
With hair as dark as sin and a face and a body that were pure heaven, Jennifer Baxter was a woman who knew her own mind and did as she pleased…until she ran off into dangerous territory south of the border. Suddenly she was the captive of a commanding gunslinger sent by her wealthy father to bring her back home. Not about to take orders from any man, she fought the arrogant stranger, struggling to resist his raw masculine virility and recklessly challenging his determination to vanquish her in every way.

AN ARROGANT GUNSLINGER
U.S. Deputy Marshal Jay Culhane had tracked down outlaw gangs and renegade Indians, but he’d never encountered a prisoner as infuriating as the beautiful schoolteacher Jennifer. From the first time he saw her he swore he would take her to his bed, claim her innocence, and bring her to a woman’s natural fulfillment. But first he had to tame her. From the shimmering desert to a magnificent Texas ranch to the genteel drawing rooms of Savannah, he would pursue her relentlessly, ruled by a fierce passion for a woman who dared him to believe in the redeeming power of love.

ESCAPE NOT MY LOVE by ELAINE COFFMAN
heart so wild

Historical Romance Review: A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Book Series: Stratton Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback, Hardcover
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

I just realized I had Johanna Lindsey‘s western romance A Heart So Wild on my Kindle. Since I hadn’t read it in 25 years, I figured why not give it a re-read?

And you know what? I loved this book more the second time around than the first.

The Plot

Why did I enjoy A Heart So Wild that much?

  • Heroine & hero “meet” when the heroine, Courtney, is getting sexually assaulted by an outlaw. What does the hero do? He sees a man messing with a woman and right away shoots the bad guy dead.
  • Enigmatic hero with a mysterious and tragic past.
  • The heroine needs a gunslinger to guide her through hostile Indian territory to find her missing father.
  • The hero, Chandos, fights, beats, and kills men who try to kidnap or try to rape the heroine.
  • A snakebite where the heroine sucks the blood out of the hero’s wound for an hour (!), and then he gets sick, revealing more in his fever dreams than he would if he was fine.
  • Quick love scenes that express passion, aren’t too purple in prose, and don’t go on for endless pages.

This western trek romance takes us through the deserts and wilderness as Courtney and Chandos travel to find her long-lost father. A Heart So Wild is more of a character-driven than a plot-driven romance, which is fine by me.

I’m so glad I gave this one a reread, as it made me remember why for such a long time, Johanna Lindsey was my favorite author: she’s easy to read. Sometimes reading is a chore, and it shouldn’t be if it’s a hobby I supposedly love.

The Characters

Courtney is a pleasant enough type. She grows on you as the story develops. And Chandos is just… Well, he’s the kind of hero that made Lindsey sell tens of millions of books.

He’s a hard nut to crack, but once Chandos falls, he falls hard and forever. Still, he retains that stubborn arrogance that was a trademark of the heroes in the first half of Lindey’s career.

“You’re my woman, cateyes. You’ve been my woman since I first laid eyes on you.”

That didn’t satisfy her. “Say it!”

He grinned and jerked her down onto his lap, where she sat stiffly, waiting, until at last he said, “I love you. Is that what you want to hear? I love you so much I’ve got no direction without you.”

“Oh, Chandos.” She melted against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I love—”

“Uh-uh.” He stopped her. “You better think real carefully before you say anything, cateyes, because if you give me your love, I’m not going to let you take it back. I can’t keep worrying about whether or not I can make you happy. I’ll try my best but there isn’t going to be any changing your mind later. Do you understand what I’m saying? If you’re going to be my woman, there’s no way in hell I’ll ever let you go.”

Final Analysis of A Heart So Wild

Chandos is a wonderful Lindsey hero. Courtney is a likable, strong-willed heroine. Together they make for a sizzling combination.

Johanna Lindsey would revisit Courtney and Chandos in All I Need Is You, which tells the tale of their bounty-hunter daughter. That book was okay.

A Heart So Wild is one of Lindsey’s best, of which there are many!

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis:

Courtney Harte is certain her missing father is a alive, lost somewhere deep in Indian territory. But she needs a guide to lead her safely through this dangerous, unfamiliar country, someone as wild and unpredictable as the land itself. And that man is the gunslinger they call Chandos.

Courtney fears this enigmatic loner whose dark secrets torture his soul, yet whose eyes, bluer than the frontier sky, enflame the innocent, determined lady with wanton desires. But on the treacherous path they have chosen they have no one to trust but each other–as shared perils to their lives and hearts unleash turbulent, unbridled, passions that only love can tame.

A HEART SO WILD by JOHANNA LINDSEY
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

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