Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Review: Denise Domning’s THE WARRIOR’S GAME – Authentic Medieval with a Great Alpha Male Hero in the time of King John

This is the third in the Warrior Series but it can be read alone. All three are set in the time of King John and the Magna Carta, a foundational document adopted at the urging of rebellious barons in the 13th century limiting the powers of the king.

THE WARRIOR’S GAME is the story of Lady Amica del la Beres (“Ami”), the widow of a knight and the ward of King John. Unbeknownst to Ami, the king has promised her to one of his favored knights, Sir Michel de Martigny, a commoner son of a merchant who distinguished himself at the siege of Nantes. In Ami’s mind, he is no match for a king’s ward. Michel wants lands and heirs and is hoping the king will keep his promise and give him Ami. With that apparently in mind, the king has made Michel administrator of Ami’s manors, much to Ami’s chagrin.

Ami is a woman who is strong in all things except when it comes to Sir Michel. Whenever he touches her, she melts in his arms and turns into a tart. Being well aware of that, and a man who has made his way in the world through his ruthless intelligence and courage, Michel uses it to his advantage, embarrassing her for her disdain of his commoner origins. Ami willingly plays into his hand several times.

Domning’s story reflects much research into the 13th century life at court and these historic details add richness and authenticity to the tale. Not just the historical setting, but the historic sounds and smells. You feel like you are there with Ami, struggling to gain a toehold on the future when she is merely a woman who, at the king’s whim, could be given to some unacceptable man. Like Sir Michel, for example. No matter the knight is handsome and sexy and his kisses render her a mushball. The king would play his game and she is but a pawn.

If you like a real historic feel in your historical romance (as I do) and you like the medieval period, this is the romance for you. It’s well written and kept me turning pages. I recommend it.

The Warrior trilogy:

THE WARRIOR’S WIFE
THE WARRIOR’S MAIDEN
THE WARRIOR’S GAME

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Review: Virginia Henley’s THE RAVEN AND THE ROSE – A 15th Century Romance and a Wonderful Tale!

It is the time when King Edward IV ruled England and faced threats from many enemies. Rich in history of 15th century England, this is a passionate love story between two stubborn, strong-willed people who reached for all life could give them and rose to every challenge, including the one presented by each other.

Beautiful Roseanna Castlemaine rides and hunts with the best of her father’s men and is an expert at horse breeding. She does what she pleases. At 17, she learns she is the illegitimate daughter of the king, who has been her mother’s lover since they were 14. Roseanna’s “first love” is a landless knight, Sir Bryan, who writes her poetry. They pledge their love to each other, though she has been betrothed for years to Roger Montford, Baron of Ravenspur. She has never met the baron and he’s never claimed her. The King did that mostly to protect Ravenspur from having to ward off the parents of marriageable young girls as he’d already had two disastrous marriages that ended in the death of both wives.

Wanting out of the betrothal that prevents her from marrying the man she loves, Roseanna rides to the hunting lodge where Ravenspur is staying to ask him to drop his claim so she can marry Sir Bryan. But her plans go awry when she is beset by a storm and her horse runs away. Tristan, Ravenspur’s younger brother, finds her in a bedraggled state and thinks her a simple village girl and decides she would make a grand prize for his brother entertainment.

This is another good one by Henley, with a great story, sexy love scenes, a worthy hero and a heroine to inspire. It’s in the vein of the others she wrote at this time, and may I say the cover is one of my favorites!

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s KEEPER OF THE DREAM – Enthralling Welsh Medieval Romance!

This is one of the best medieval romances I’ve read, but then I’m a fan of Penelope Williamson.

Set in the mid 12th century when England was at war with what would become Wales, and the "marcher lands" were a battleground, it tells of Raine, bastard son of the Earl of Chester, and Ariana, a Welsh woman who becomes part of the conqueror’s spoils.

Raine’s father was a Norman nobleman who treated Raine cruelly (beating him when he asked for a pony on his birthday, confining him to work in the stables, turning him over to their enemies). Raine overcomes his rude beginning and all he has suffered to become The Black Dragon, a favored knight of King Henry. Raine returns to Rhuddlan, a castle in Wales where he was once held captive, now held by Owain, lord of Gwynedd. When Raine takes the castle, only a young son of Gwynedd and his daughter, Arianna, remain. Arianna witnesses Raine kill her brother and hates him for it. (She is a seer and had a vision of a Black Dragon and realizes Raine is the one is she dreaded.)

As the story develops, Henry allows Raine to keep Rhuddlan and gives him Arianna to wed. She hates the Norman who has killed her brother and the start of the marriage is a disaster.

I cannot begin to tell you how well woven this complex tale is, but suffice it to say it is very well done and you will be glad you read it. The characters are well developed (and there are some wonderful ones, not the least of which is Taliesin, the wizard who is weaving his own story). The history of the period so well presented that you feel you are there, which is one of the author's great talents. She takes time for details that make it real. You become a part of the world she has created and it's wonderful. Needless to say, the love story will tear at your heart.

I do have to say, however, that this hero has a very rough and mean side so be prepared. It's a bodice ripper. But it's a keeper and it won the coveted RITA award. So, of course, I recommend it!

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Review: Tamara Leigh’s BLACKHEART –Great Medieval Romance!

This is a classic--a real "keeper."

Set in 12th century England, this is the story is of Gabriel de Vere, the oldest son of a Norman Baron who rejected Gabriel as his heir because on her deathbed his mother confessed to having taken lovers. Since Gabriel and his younger brother, Blase, have her dark looks, the father wonders if they are really his. To solve his problem, Gabriel’s father chooses as his heir the fairer third son.

Gabriel leaves, vowing to make it on his own. He succeeds, becoming a powerful knight fighting in the Crusades and gaining the favor of King Richard who gives him a castle and estate in Normandy.

Gabriel’s close friend, Bernart Kinthorpe, blames him unfairly for a wound that robbed him of his manhood in the Crusades. When Bernart returns home, he marries Gabriel’s betrothed Julianna without telling her they can have no real marriage. Since Bernart cannot consummate his marriage to Julianna, he decides to gain a son with another man's seed. Out of revenge, he picks Gabriel, so that he can take from him what he feels Gabriel robbed him of--the capacity to sire an heir. Bernart lures Gabriel to his castle in England with a high stakes tournament and then, using threats against her much loved sister, forces Julianna to go to Gabriel's bed in the dark of night disguised as a castle wench. Julianna complies, though she is against the whole idea. (She is a faithful, albeit virgin, wife.)

Believing Bernart's lies about Gabriel, Julianna initially has no feelings for Gabriel other than disdain, but soon discovers him to be a man of courage and honor. In their moments of passion over the week he's at her husband's castle she gives her heart to Gabriel. When Gabriel discovers the ruse, he vows to claim any child that results and have his revenge on both Julianna and Bernart who he sees as co-conspirators.

The author captures well the 12th century, balancing the language of the time with a need to be understandable to modern readers. Hence we know clearly what is going on but we know we are back in the time of Richard the Lion Heart. Great attention is given to castle life, preparation for battle, food, dress, customs and the history of the time so that you feel you are living it. But since this is a romance, the love story is central and this is a good one that kept me reading late into the night (always a good sign).

The characters are well defined and you care about them, the love scenes realistic, and the tale very well told. You won't regret reading this one!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Review: Susan King’s THE SWAN MAIDEN - Impressive Second in the Medieval Celtic Series

Set in Scotland and England in the early 14th century, this is the tale of Sir Gawain Avenel, a noble knight, who is half Scot, born Gabhan McDuff. When his father was killed and their castle burned, his English mother took him to England where his stepfather, a nobleman, raised him.

King masterfully weaves history, legend and great storytelling into a wonderful medieval romance. Sir Gawain is the knight who aided Jamie Lindsay and Isobel Seton in LAIRD OF THE WIND.

Though raised in England, Sir Gawain never forgot his Scottish roots. His gallantry (he has a propensity to come to the aid of those in need) leads him to rescue the proud Scottish beauty, Juliana Lindsay ("the Swan Maiden") when her castle is attacked. Years later, he comes to her rescue again at King Edward's court when he seeks to embarrass her by challenging his knights to tame “the Swan.”

Each must come to terms with their true nature and loyalty as they also deal with their passion and love for each other.

Definitely worth the read.

The series:

THE SWORD MAIDEN
THE SWAN MAIDEN
THE SWORD MAIDEN
LAIRD OF THE WIND

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Allure of Medieval Romance



Yesterday, an article I wrote on the resurgence in medieval romance appeared in USA TODAY's Happy Ever After section. I thought you might like to read it--and I'd love to know your thoughts!

You can read it below and see it as it appeared HERE.



The Allure of Medieval Romance by Regan Walker

Medieval romance has been around for centuries. The love story of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, as memorialized in Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette, an Old French poem, written in the 12th century, and Wagner's composition of Tristan und Isolde are classics we never tire of. And, many of us read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, set in 12th century England, when we were in school. It might surprise you to know that romance writing developed in Britain after the Norman Conquest and flourished right through the Middle Ages. But it just might be that medieval romance is experiencing a resurgence today.

On Amazon, for example, there are nearly as many medieval romance novels as there are historical romance novels. Many of the new ones are self-published, possibly because publishers haven’t been as interested in the subgenre. But some of the authors I have spoken with are making a good living off their medieval stories. Some are Amazon bestsellers. So, perhaps the publishers should take note.

Why do we love to read about that time when knights battled for their king and ladies swooned at their victories? Perhaps it is the notion of chivalry, a valuing of womanhood and virtues such as truth, honor and valor. A knight who rises to duty, and the maiden who would take her place at his side. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, he describes a knight as being distinguished in truth, honor, generosity and courtesy, who is both wise and modest. A nobility of spirit, not just a nobility of title and lands.

In today’s medieval romances, readers want good love stories, but they also want more. They want to experience a time when, putting on rose-colored glasses, a simpler life allowed for the graces and time for romantic love. A knight might woo his lady with love notes and gifts, and take a ride with her on his palfrey, not just swing by for a beer. And he will be saving her from certain peril at some point. With all the modern fiction available, full of crude language and ill treatment of women, readers are looking for a change. A look into the past, when women wore courtly gowns, their virtue was (generally) protected and a man’s honor was everything, is refreshing. Of course, the heroine must be intelligent and courageous. I don’t wonder if that is one reason Game of Thrones is such a popular TV series. Though not set in any particular time in history, it definitely has a medieval feel, and the females are among the strongest characters.

One of my fellow authors, Kathryn LeVeque, told me “more and more readers enjoy getting involved in a big medieval book for the adventure and romance.” According to Kathryn, “readers are 'over' vampires, werewolves, ghosts, shape-shifters, bad dukes and sinful earls.” According to her, “They like the thought of a virtuous knight sweeping them off their feet and a good, old-fashioned damsel in distress.”

I heard much the same thing at the Romance Writers of America when it comes to future trends in historical romance. It made me think medieval romance is about to experience a come back.
I was drawn to medieval romance myself, both as a reader and as an author. My earlier novels and stories were all set in the Regency era, though I would never have described them as “light” romances. (Each has real history and mystery as well as a love story.) But the deep past kept calling to me. It was an adventure to dive into the 11th century and take a look at England after the Norman Conquest. It wasn’t all a pretty picture, to be sure. No, indeed. William the Conqueror was a brutal king who treated his enemies despicably. But the knights in my story, The Red Wolf’s Prize, are of a noble bent, inclined to pay homage to womanhood, even if the hero does lust after the heroine. And of course, my heroine is brave and noble of heart, though her independence leads her into trouble. Since it’s a romance, you can expect conflict and difficulty, but in the end, even an English maiden will succumb to a Norman knight if he proves himself to be a man of valor and honor.

So, as you consider your reading options, take a look at the more than one thousand medieval romances available for your reading pleasure. And, please take a look at The Red Wolf’s Prize!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Review: Barbara Bettis’ SILVERHAWK – Classic Medieval Story of Knights and their Ladies in the time of King Richard

Set in Lincolnshire in 1197, this is the story of mercenary knight Sir Giles of Cambrai (“Silverhawk”), who was ambushed by outlaws on his way from France to see Lord Henry of Chauvere, and Lady Emelin of Compton, whose men rescue Giles.

Lady Emelin is on her way from the convent where she was living to wed Lord Osbert, a stranger to her. Osbert essentially bought her as a broodmare from her evil brother, so that he could gain an heir. Despite this, Emelin is willing because she thinks even a bad marriage that will give her children is preferable to life as a nun. When they come across the wounded Sir Giles, she insists they take him with them so his wounds can be tended, little knowing that Giles knows her betrothed and loathes him.
Lincolnshire

This is an adventure with lots of mystery as Sir Giles’ past remains in question until the very end. Emelin is a worthy heroine, brave and yet will do her duty to help others. Giles (“Silverhawk”) remains a noble knight enamored of Emelin but believing he is unworthy of her. There are many great secondary characters that populate the story, and some who scheme to gain the advantage for King Philip of France over King Richard who remains on Crusade throughout the story.

A lively tale, I recommend it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Review: Elise Cyr’s SIEGE OF THE HEART – Great Debut and an Entertaining William the Conqueror Romance

This was Cyr’s debut novel and it’s a well-written, entertaining story from the time of William the Conqueror.

The story is set in the south of England, beginning in December 1066, a few months after the Battle of Hastings. Lady Isabel receives word her father, a thegn, while on his way to Hastings, died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, fighting for King Harold. And then a Norman knight, Alexandre d’Evreux, shows up at her castle at Ashdown to take her and her family to meet William, soon to be crowned king.

Isabel has no desire to leave, particularly when she has received no word of her brother who fought at Hastings. So she stalls the knight, telling him she is waiting for her father. Little does she know that William has already given both Ashdown and her to Alex.

Alex is a noble and gentle knight, a saint when it comes to the rebellious Isabel. Rather than demand his way, he prefers to woo her. He tells Isabel only that he is charged with taking her and her father to London. And Isabel withholds the truth from him that her father is dead. Though Isabel is resigned to her fate that William will give her to one of his knights, it never occurs to her that Alex is that man. She is independent and can take care of herself—and often does in her battles with the Welsh. She is surprisingly accepting of what has happened to her family and her country.

Cyr brings to life Ashdown and the time immediately after the Conquest, and includes some nice secondary characters. If you like medieval romances set in this time period, this one has to appeal. It will be interesting to see what setting Cyr chooses for her next book, but with her fondness for the medieval subgenre, we can expect more like this!

Friday, October 3, 2014

New Review: Mary Jo Putney’s UNCOMMON VOWS – A Worthy Tale from 12th Century England

Not many readers of historical romance may know that Mary Jo Putney wrote a medieval, but she did, and this is it! Set in 1143, when England was torn apart by the war between King Stephen and Matilda, King Henry I’s only legitimate heir, it tells the story of Lady Meriel de Vere, a high spirited young woman who loves riding fast and training her falcon. Convent raised, she is considering taking the veil until a vision of a mounted knight blocking that path warns her from it.

Adrian de Lancey, Baron Warfield thought to become a priest, but the death of his father and older brothers at the hands of their enemy, Guy of Burgoigne, gave Adrian the title and a reason for vengeance. Adding to that, Matilda names Adrian Earl of Shropshire and King Stephen bestows the same title on Guy.

One day when Meriel is hunting with her falcon, she strays into the royal forest where Adrian and his men find her and accuse her of poaching. Meriel fears to tell him she is a Norman from her brother’s holding, Avonleigh, because they support King Stephen and she knows Adrian supports Matilda, so she lies and tells him she is a Welsh commoner. Adrian takes her back to his castle at Warfield and forcibly holds her prisoner in a small stone chamber, telling her she will remain there until she agrees to become his mistress. Meriel vows never to give in, preferring death to dishonor.

Adrian is her knowing his perfidy by her amnesia…which renders her a docile female, hardly recognizable from the strong-willed beauty she had been. Of course, Adrian takes full advantage.

This one will definitely keep you turning pages. Though it did bother me a bit that Meriel could have been free any time if she but told Adrian who she was. Alas, she does not and remains Adrian’s prisoner. For Meriel, who loved her freedom, it was a horrible fate. Adrian apparently buys her tale that she is common born, though her speech must have been that of a lady. And, though he realizes she is an innocent, he prays for wisdom to seduce her. (The word “cad” came to mind.) I so wanted him to grovel in the end.

The falconry aspects of the story are fascinating and Putney has done her research to present the noble sport well. The historical background is rich and surrounds the romance. I quite liked that. This story has it all: history, a great romance, vengeance, treachery, deceit, amnesia and, at one point, near rape. Oh yes, the ending is an exciting one!

A worthy medieval romance, I recommend it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Red Wolf's Prize is here!

October is medieval romances month on my blog, and what better way to begin than with my very own medieval romance, just released today--The Red Wolf's Prize! It recently hit Amazon's Top 100 Medieval Romances list, and that based on preorders alone. (My thanks to those of you who are among the 400+ who have pre-ordered it!) Since it's release, it's now #1 in Ancient World Romances, #5 in Hot New Releases and #9 in the Top 100 Medieval Romances.

I thought you might like to see the cover, the description, some early praise, the trailer and a short excerpt, so here they are!

HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED HIS PRIZE

Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them.

SHE WOULD LOVE HIM AGAINST HER WILL

Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord.

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.

As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

Some early praise:

“Ms. Walker has the rare ability to make you forget you are reading a book…the characters become real, the modern world fades away and all that is left is the intrigue, drama and romance.” Straight from the Library

“An engrossing love story grounded in meticulous research. Regan Walker makes the transition from Regency London to Anglo Norman England with consummate ease.” Glynn Holloway, author of 1066 What Fates Impose

“Regan Walker has once again written a story that grabs hold and doesn’t let go. There is intrigue, action and a beautifully developed romance." Vickie Moore, The Reading Cafe

The trailer:



An excerpt:

The door opened with no warning knock.

Serena gasped and pulled the cloth over her breasts and belly, keenly aware her legs were bare for anyone to see.

The Red Wolf stepped into the chamber, his piercing gray gaze sliding over her body and coming to rest where her breasts strained against the thin cloth. She could feel the heat of her blush as she looked down to see the drying cloth clinging to her wet skin.

Without saying a word, he turned to the side and took off his belt. Then, with a grunt, he pulled his mail over his head and struggled out of his tunic. She would have offered to help had she not been so scantily clad. Had she not been so shy of his disrobing before her.

When his tunic slid to the floor, she nervously asked, “What do you intend, my lord?”

“I should think that was obvious, my lady. I am claiming my bride.”

“Now?” She gripped the drying cloth more tightly to her still damp body. The long strands of her pale hair, wet from the bath, clung to her skin. No man had ever seen her in such a state.

“Yes, now.” His eyes considered her carefully, and he shook his head. “God knows I’ve left it overlong.”

While still staring at her, he shed his spurs and boots and doffed his linen shirt, leaving his chest bare and his lower body clad in only hosen and braies. He was a beautiful man with his bronze skin and muscled chest. Her eyes were drawn to the white cloth circling his upper arm.

“Your wound,” she said, as she focused on the white bandage around his upper arm. The wound from the arrow he took for Jamie. How could she not love such a man?

“Aye.” He glanced down at the bandage. “My token from the siege at Exeter.”

“Does it pain you?”

His gray eyes narrowed intently. “If you are asking if it will impair my performance in our bed, nay.”

If you are so disposed, you can order it on Amazon HERE.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Best Bodice Rippers!



I belong to a group on Goodreads, Bodice Ripper Romance Anonymous, that has sent me some of the greatest recommendations for historical romances. And so I could not resist this new list, however difficult this category may be to define. Some think this subgenre is comprised of just the classics. That is not so. While many of the classics were bodice rippers, certainly not all were. And, lest you think it’s a subgenre of the past, there are new bodice rippers being written today (some of which are on this list).

At least one of my Goodreads pals defines this subgenre as stories “containing an element of sexual peril.” Possibly that is so, as the ones on my list all have this. But for me, there is usually more. Typically there is a forced seduction by the hero involved or an actual ripping of the heroine’s bodice. Let’s just say I know it when I see it.

These won’t appeal to all, but certainly they are all well done. All have been rated 4 or 5 stars by me. Some are keepers. If you like stories that feature an alpha male hero who begins demanding his way, but falls at the heroine’s feet at the end to beg forgiveness and confess his love, you’ll find them here.

Do let me know if you have read a good one I’ve missed.

A Dangerous Love, The Border Lord’s Bride from The Border Chronicles by Bertrice Small
A Gentle Feuding by Johanna Lindsey
A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
A Pirate's Love by Johanna Lindsey
And Gold Was Ours by Rebecca Brandewyne
Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught
Black Sword by Kathryn LeVeque
Bonds of Love by Lisa Gregory (aka Candace Camp)
Bound by the Heart by Marsha Canham (the original print version)
Bride of the Baja by Jane Toombs
Callista by Cordia Byers
Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey
Chance the Winds of Fortune and the sequel, Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain
Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson
Crimson Rapture by Jennifer Horsman
Damsel in Distress by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Dark Fires by Brenda Joyce
Dawnfire by Lynn Eirckson
Deceive Not My Heart by Shirlee Busbee
Desire in Disguise by Rebecca Brandewyne
Devil's Desire by Laurie McBain
Devil's Embrace by Catherine Coulter
Dream of Me by Josie Litton
Embrace and Conquer by Jennifer Blake
Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
Fair is the Rose by Meagan McKinney
Fires of Winter and Hearts Aflame from the Viking trilogy by Johanna Lindsey
Forbidden Love by Karen Robards
Forever and a Lifetime by Jennifer Horsman
Forever My Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
Golden Fancy by Jennifer Blake
Gypsy Lady by Shirley Busbee
Innocent Fire, Firestorm and Fires of Paradise (part of the Bragg Saga) by Brenda Joyce
Island Flame, and the sequel, Sea Fire by Karen Robards
Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson
Lady Highwayman by Tanya Kayley
Lady of Conquest by Teresa Medeiros
Lady of Fire by Anita Mills
Lady Vixen by Shirley Busbee
Lespada by Kathryn Le Veque
Lie Down in Roses by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Lions and Lace by Meagan McKinney
Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne
Love Only Once and Gentle Rogue from the Mallory series by Johanna Lindsey
Love's Wild Desire by Jennifer Blake
Magic Embrace by Jennifer Horsman
Midnight Masquerade by Shirlee Busbee
My Lord Monleigh by Jan Cox Speas
My Wicked Enchantress by Meagan McKinney
No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
Notorious Angel by Jennifer Blake
Once and Always by Judith McNaught
Ondine by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Pirate Royale by Cordia Byers
Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey
Rangoon by Christine Monson
Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne
Royal Seduction from the Royal Princes of Ruthenia duology by Jennifer Blake
Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale
Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small
Stormfire by Christine Monson
Surrender in Moonlight by Jennifer Blake
Swan Road by Rebecca Brandewyne
Sweet Savage Eden by Heather Graham
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
Tender Betrayal by Jennifer Blake
The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux
The Black Swan By Day Taylor
The Conqueror by Brenda Joyce
The Darkest Heart by Brenda Joyce
The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt
The Falcon and the Flower by Virginia Henley
The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss
The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys
The Game by Brenda Joyce
The Ground She Walks Upon by Meagan McKinney
The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger
The Pirate and the Pagan by Virginia Henley
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
The Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee
The Storm and the Splendor by Jennifer Blake
The Taming and Ride Out the Storm from a trilogy by Aleen Malcolm
The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss
This Other Eden by Marilyn Harris
Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney
Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney
Under Crimson Sails by Lynna Lawton
Until You by Judith McNaught
Virgin Star by Jennifer Horsman
When Angels Fall by Meagan McKinney
When the Splendour Falls by Laurie McBain
While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee
Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
Wild Bells to the Wild Sky by Laurie McBain
Winter's Heat by Denise Domning

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Review: Valerie Vayle’s LADY OF FIRE – A Different Pirate Tale

Set in the late 17th century in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Turkey, France and England, this is the story of Garlanda Cheney, who was born in England, the daughter of Sir Robert Cheney, a murdered diplomat. She was raised in Martinique where her grandfather had a plantation. Convent schooled, Garlanda was naïve when she and her mother set sail for England. Her mother died at sea just as their ship went down in a storm. Garlanda was saved by a pirate captain named Rogue with whom she ended up on an island.

True to his name, Rogue takes Garlanda as his mistress, and they spend some idyllic days together. Rescued by Rogue’s crew, Garlanda (who Rogue calls “Fleur”) is taken aboard his ship and held captive until she engages in a daring escape in Marseilles. Garlanda is desperate to find her aunt in England and to find the person who murdered her father.

Both Garlanda’s father and Rogue are mysterious figures. Rogue is constantly taking on different identities, and though he acts the pirate, he is a well-educated man. And for some reason, the British Embassy folks don’t want Garlanda to know about her father.

There is no question that this is a well-written story, but there are whole chapters where Rogue and Garlanda are separated (I won’t even go into her days with a Turkish Pasha), which won’t appeal to all readers. And Rogue seems to be a man incapable of jealousy, which is a bit odd for a romance hero. Still, the story is entertaining and the mystery surrounding Garlanda’s father and Rogue himself kept me reading. There are some endearing secondary characters, including Garlanda’s aunt, Althea, Sabelle (a female member of Rogue’s crew, whose daughters’ story is told in book 2), and Leon Jareski-Yanoviak, the Polish count.

My favorite lines come from a conversation between Garlanda and her aunt Althea:

"Whom do you love?"
"A pirate," Garlanda said miserably.
Athea's eyes lit up. "A real pirate? Does he wear an eyepatch and have a wooden leg and carry a knife in his teeth and--"
"He's well educated and can recite the works of Shakespeare and Jonson from memory."
"Oh," Althea said, voice flat. "Not even a parrot?"

The ending satisfies, so the reader who hangs in there will be rewarded as the mysteries are solved and the guy gets the girl.

It’s a different kind of pirate tale and, though it was suggested to me as a bodice ripper, I did not find it so.

Here’s the trilogy:

LADY OF FIRE
SEAFLAME
ORIANA

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s VIRGIN STAR – Shipboard Romance with an Irish Twist

VIRGIN STAR is another of Horsman’s shipboard historical romances, but this one has an Irish hero and a heroine who doesn’t know who she is. Be sure to read it before PASSION’S JOY, the sequel.

Set in 1823, this is the story of a young Englishwoman who, as a child, was taken from England to Malacca near the South China Sea. (We don’t know why for most of the book.) When the story opens, she is 21 and has been beaten and dumped on the doorstep of Captain Sean Seanessy, a wealthy Irish sea captain living in opulent splendor in England where he’s become an asset to the British government. A man of the world who takes his pleasure wherever he finds it, Seanessy is smitten by the girl with amnesia who wears only a ruby necklace he calls the “virgin star.” He names her Shalyn after the wind fairies of Ireland. She has no memory save for Malacca and the nightmares that haunt her of a beach with human skulls stuck in the sand. Seanessy is intrigued when he discovers the intelligent, well-educated young woman has been trained in Oriental fighting techniques, and of course, his attraction is immediate.

Consumed with an assignment from the British government to destroy a cache of opium held on an island near Malacca by a French duke, Seanessy has no time for the troublesome young woman. He believes the French duke has already made an attempt on the life of his half brother and his wife. It’s a game of cat and mouse that finally leads to Seanessy’s sailing for Malacca unaware that Shalyn has stowed away onboard. As they sail toward the duke’s island, Shalyn’s memories begin to return, both those of England as a child and in Malacca.

Horsman has created a wonderful set of characters in Seanessy’s crew, including a big dog named Oliver who takes a liking to Shalyn. There’s enough historical detail to satisfy the romance reader who likes more than “wallpaper” history and enough chemistry between Seanessy and Shalyn to make for an intriguing romance. (We don’t learn her true identity until late in the book.)

Note: Both the hero and heroine have light hair, the heroine’s described as golden blonde, notwithstanding the redhead on the cover.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Review: Cordia Byers’ NICOLE LABELLE – Southern Bayou Beauty Finds Love with a Man Who Seeks Vengeance

Set in Louisiana around 1830, beginning in the bayou, this is the story of Nicole Sentelle, whose father, a trapper, is an evil man, causing the death of Nicole’s highborn mother. Her mother’s dying wish was that Nicole would return to their cousin and rich relation, Quinton DuPree, master of the Live Oak plantation. But the note she gave Nicole to carry with her was left behind when Nicole fled into the swamp after her mother’s death and her father threatened her. It was there she met Alex Chandler in a chance encounter and he helped her to bury her mother.

Nicole arrives at Live Oak in a bedraggled condition, but is immediately accepted by Quinton, older than her by 20 years and a kind widower. Suddenly, his lonely days are full of life. Nicole reminds him of her mother whom he loved deeply. Not surprisingly, he falls in love with Nicole and asks her to marry him. On the eve of their wedding, unbeknownst to anyone, Nicole’s father kills Quinton. Seeing the body, Nicole flees in sadness and is thrown from her horse to awaken with amnesia.

Alex Chandler, who would have had Live Oak but for the change in Quinton’s will to leave it to Nicole, believes Nicole shot Quinton and now Alex seeks vengeance on the beautiful girl.

Byers has given us a great plot with mystery and some great twists. I did think that in places, Alex’s mistrust of Nicole and his harsh behavior (once leaving her in a weakened condition on the wrong side of town in the dead of night) was a bit over the top. And their coming together in the end seemed a bit abrupt. Notwithstanding these things, and while not at the same level as her Pirate Royale, this is an engrossing read.

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Review: Tanya Kaley’s LADY HIGHWAYMAN – 18th century Bodice Ripper (sort of) and an Enthralling Story!

This was Kaley’s debut novel and I have to say it’s a wonderfully exciting read that I could not put down.

The story begins in the North West of England in 1743, where Rosalinda lives in poverty with her parents and three brothers on Lord Windermere’s magnificent estate. In a cruel response to her brothers’ poaching to put food on the table, the boys are sent away and her husband transported to the Colonies. Thus, Rosie loses her family in one fell swoop. Seeing the men lusting after Rosie’s virtue, her mother decides to send her to London to live with her aunt, never knowing the aunt runs a bawdy house, the worst of its kind.

Before she leaves, Rosie encounters a handsome highwayman, who is the alienated son of an English lord. Blake Glenowen, a dark, mysterious figure, takes a fancy to the beautiful young woman, repeatedly saving her from those who would rob her innocence or do her harm. Yet all the while, he warns her of danger, including himself, as he covets her innocence.

Will she be robbed her of her innocence by Blake, or will Blake do the noble thing? Blake cannot marry her, as he has no life to share with a woman. Yet, when they finally get together, Rosie will join him in his highwayman’s adventures.

This is very much a “perils of Pauline” story as Rosie goes from one misadventure and narrow escape to another, in both England and France, all the while thinking of her dark savior. The characters are endearing and the story captivates. For a time, Rosie lives with Gypsies and learns to love their culture though a Gypsy king is determined to have her for his woman. And Blake hovers in the background.

It is well written and exciting. There are bodice-ripping elements, to be sure, but the hero never forces the heroine. The ending is a bit abrupt, and there are a few forms of address issues, but there’s enough story here to satisfy the discerning historical romance reader.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Review: Jennifer Blake’s ROYAL SEDUCTION – A Great Bodice Ripper set in Louisiana with a Prince of a Hero

Classic Cover
Another well-told story from Blake, and this one a bodice ripper with a European prince for a hero…

Set in 1829 in Louisiana, this is the story of Angeline Fortin who lives with her aunt outside of New Orleans. Angeline, a chaste young woman, has a look-alike cousin, Claire, who has returned from Ruthenia in Europe having fled the murder of her lover, the heir to the throne. When his younger brother, Prince Rolfe, comes to New Orleans in search of Claire, who he thinks murdered his brother, he mistakes Angeline for her cousin.

Rolfe abducts Angeline and forces her to his bed, whereupon (of course) he discovers she is a virgin. Realizing he has the wrong woman, does he apologize profusely and return her to her home? No, he keeps her prisoner as his mistress, telling her she can be free if she will only tell him of her cousin’s whereabouts. Of course, she declines, hoping to protect her cousin. And one doubts he would have released her even then.

New cover
Much of the story is taken up with the search for Claire, and there are villains aplenty as they ride through No Man’s Land where a pack of Scottish bandits and a Spanish horde of ruthless outlaws seek to tear Claire from Rolfe. But Rolfe is wily and fierce in his defense of the woman he is coming to admire and to care for. The mystery of Claire’s involvement in the murder of Rolfe’s brother continues and treachery lies amidst Rolfe’s cadre of men. Someone is seeking to kill Rolfe.

This is a well-written story that kept me turning pages, a bodice ripper with a great plot and a fine ending. The hero is noble if a bit selfish and the heroine, who begins naïve and a bit weak, ends up showing great courage and regal presence.

You will not be disappointed, I promise.