Monday, April 21, 2014

New Review: Elizabeth Lowell’s UNTAMED – A Great Medieval with Falconry-- Simply Superb!

UNTAMED was my first romance by Elizabeth Lowell and since then, I’ve read many more of hers. It won the RITA Award and deservedly. Her writing is wonderful; her period setting excellent; and her storytelling is full of action and adventure, natural sexual tension and conflict that is not scary, contrived or over the top but rather, very believable.

Set in the early 12th century, it is the story of Lady Margaret of Blackthorne, a Glendruid "witch" (though she is really a God fearing young woman who loves her people), and Dominic le Sabre ("the Sword"), a knight who has returned to Scotland to be rewarded by King Henry I for great service in the Middle East. His reward is Blackthorne Keep, its lands and the Lady Margaret ("Meg"), its mistress.

Dominic wants lands, peace and heirs--male heirs--but the Glendruid women cannot bear male heirs unless there is real love present and Dominic has none to give as he’s been wounded in heart and soul at the hands of the Saracens. Dominic knows Meg was promised to another and he suspects the man was also her lover. However, Meg is an innocent young woman, though wise in the ways of people and animals. She's a gifted healer, as are all the Glendruids, and she has an amazing way with the falcons they raise at Blackthorne.

I loved the way Lowell wove falconry and the life of a medieval keep into her incredibly detailed story. She created wonderful characters (two of whom are featured in the next two in the trilogy) with period dialog that drew me in from the first page.
Spanish edition

This is a keeper, worth enjoying more than once! I highly recommend it.

I’ve included the Spanish edition cover as it displays the heroine’s falconry.

The trilogy:

UNTAMED
FORBIDDEN
ENCHANTED

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Review: Johanna Lindsey’s WHEN LOVE AWAITS – A Classic from Lindsey: Love in an Arranged Marriage in the times of King Henry II

Set in England in 1176, this is the story of Lady Leonie, sent away by her father to her dower keep because he didn’t want to be reminded of her mother who he so loved. Living alone with her people away from the suitors she might have had, Leonie begins to think she is happy in that state. When her neighbor, Sir Rolfe d'Ambert, a favored knight of King Henry, discovers she owns the land that is causing all his problems, the mercenary Lord of Kempston asks the king for her hand, wanting only to gain the land. Leonie knows Rolfe only by reputation and it is not good, but she cannot defy the king. Little does Rolfe know, he is about to get more than he bargained for.

This is a fun romp through the time when Henry II ruled England. The story reflects Lindsey’s research into the era and what life was like at the time. There’s treachery, rogues and villains aplenty with enough adventure to keep you entertained, too. Rolfe is a worthy hero who will have his way. And Lionie is an honorable woman who insists on having hers. The result is a bit of a tug of war but all does end well.

Of Lindsey’s many novels, I would say this is one of the lighter ones, but still has enough historical detail and angst to satisfy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

And the winner of the Madeline Hunter novel is...


We have a winner of the Madeline Hunter book! It's Carol L. from New Jersey. Congratulations, Carol! I'll be giving Carol's info to Madeline Hunter so Carol can let Madeline know which book she wants.

Thanks to all those who commented and please come back again for our next giveaway in May!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Favorite Author and My Guest Today...Madeline Hunter!

Madeline Hunter is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her first novel, By Possession, was published in 2000 (and reviewed on my blog just below this post). Since then she has had 24 historical romances published. A two-time RITA winner, her books have been translated into thirteen languages.

Welcome to my blog, Madeline! And for you readers, Madeline is graciously giving to one lucky commenter a book of your choice! So leave your email!

Thanks, Regan. It's great to be here. In keeping with your theme for the month, my post is about how historical romance has changed over the years.

How We Got Here from There by Madeline Hunter

If you have been reading historical romances for a long time, you have watched them change over the years. Go back even to the early 1990s and they looked and read much differently. Go back farther, to the early years of their market dominance in the 70s and 80s, and they were even more different.

The most notable difference is that back then they were longer. How much longer? In some cases, almost twice as long as they are now. A typical historical romance today will have between 85,000 and 100,000 words. I saw an excel spreadsheet once that charted some of the older ones, and a few broke 200,000 words. 150,000 words minimum was typical of books by stars like Kathleen Woodiwiss and Roberta Gellis and other authors selling books by the boatload then.

So why are they shorter now? Publishers like to say that readers want faster reads, and maybe they do. Faster not only in terms of finishing fast, so shorter, but also in terms of moving fast, as in less description and narrative. Gone are the days of leisurely openings, extensive descriptions of settings, and often even action scenes. The battles and banquets are not going to be on the pages, is one way of saying it.

Is this a bad thing? Not if the story works and the writing is good, although some of us may miss the long emersion in a big fat book. On the other hand, I think it is safe to say none of us miss any padding, or artificial lengthening of the story just to satisfy a publisher’s longer word count expectations.

Another reason they changed was purely practical. Rather abruptly in the mid-90s paper became much more expensive. So did shipping. Furthermore, the shelf space in mass-market venues like grocery stores and drug stores began shrinking fast. In that environment, a book that was fat was expensive to print, ship, and stock. A rack in the local drug store might only hold 3 of those fat books but could hold 5 thinner ones.

Other developments aided the shortening of these books. As the “little Regencies” began disappearing in the 90s, those readers moved over to single title historicals. This influenced the length, I think, because those readers were accustomed to short books. It also influenced the settings of historicals, and began the domination of the market by books set in 19th-century England.

This change was in full swing when I was trying to sell my first medievals in the late 90s, the “By” novels set in 14th-century London. Even as I wrote them, books were getting shorter so my first ones were too long. I often received rejections that referred to them as “too historical.” At the time I took umbrage with that, and assumed it was a criticism of my using real history in my plots. I now realize it had more to do with the tone of the manuscripts, and the length, and the unfolding of the story. Eventually I went back and cut the stories down significantly and they sold. Same story, same characters, same events, same plot, same historical figures as secondary characters.

So what did I change? Episodes that did not absolutely have to be there got slashed. Three lines of description became one good line of description. World building came to rely on what I call “the telling detail.” Some secondary plot events happened off stage.
Even so, some readers felt my medievals harkened back to earlier historicals. Others thought they represented the future, probably because they were more sensual than the norm at the time.

Other things have changed too. When historical romances exploded on the bookselling scene in the 70s and 80s, the heroines might have more than one lover. These historicals described the heroine’s journey over time. She would travel to exotic locales, or endure some disaster, and she would have a lover for a while who was other than the one she chose for her HEA.

There are also changes that are very much for the good. We are all glad to be done with the rapes, aren’t we? Not seductions, mind you, but rape.

I do not know how they became so common for a time in early historical romances, but I have a theory. I think a book or two had them, and when they became blockbusters publishers dissected those books and decided readers wanted what was in them--- including rape. I have this theory because as I read widely once I discovered romances, and read lots of older ones, I found some where I swear that rape was added later, after the book was written, because it had no point whatsoever in the story. Whenever I see elements stuck in like that I tend to suspect editorial intrusion.

There are readers who either remember those long, detailed historical romances fondly from reading them back in their day, or who stumble upon one now and like the differences. There are readers and writers who think more variety in settings and options in story lines and length would be nice to have again. Some writers take the shot on writing extra long historicals now, hoping the readers will support the effort.

But there are other voices that claim that those reading preferences are now served by the historical fiction novels that have romantic elements. I personally do not agree with that.

There is a difference between romantic historical fiction and an historical romance that has nothing to do with setting or length, or even the type of development that caused editors to call my early manuscripts “too historical.” Think of the story as a photograph. In a photograph, a good one, there will be a focal point. Other things and people will be in the photo, but the whole composition leads to that focal point.

In historical romances that focal point is the romance. Duels may be fought, villains may be vanquished, kingdoms may fall, but the romance is still the focal point. In historical fiction, however, the romance is part of what moves around the focal point, helping to complete the composition and essential to it, to be sure, but not at its center.

If you want to read a romance, you want that focus on the romance. This does not mean that readers who prefer those very long historical romances cannot find them now. Due to re-releases in ebook form, the classics from that period are actually plentiful. But unless the marketplace demands stories like that again, it is unlikely that many writers will create new ones. Because readers and authors are not there anymore. They are here now.



Thanks for being on the blog, Madeline.

And for all you readers, Madeline’s next release, The Accidental Duchess, will be published on June 3, 2014.

Visit her at www.MadelineHunter.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Review: Madeline Hunter’s BY POSSESSION – 1st in the 14th Century London Series is a Keeper!

This is the 1st in Hunter’s 14th Century London series (see list below). It is an amazing romance...great historical setting, well drawn characters, realistic dialog for the period and a wonderful heartrending story of love that overcomes many obstacles.

It takes place in the time of King Edward II and tells the story of Addis de Valence, a high born nobleman and knight, and Moira Falkner, the daughter of a nobleman's mistress and a bondwoman to Valence (though she claims her mother's lover freed her). She has secretly loved Addis since she was 12 and was always there when he needed care or comforting, even though he was promised to the highborn Claire, Moira's friend. Addis married Claire, who was vain and selfish and deserted Addis when he was sorely wounded and it was thought he'd never walk again. Now back from years in captivity in the Baltic where he was taken in the Crusades as a slave, he fights to regain his rightful place, all the while wanting Moira by his side and without benefit of marriage. But she will not go the path of her mother.

You will love this story. I couldn't put it down. And just so you know, Madeline will be a guest on my blog this Thursday, so come back to see what she has to say about the classics and how historical romance has changed.

If you like to read things in date order, as I do, here is Hunter's Medieval historical series (two trilogies) in chronological order:

BY POSSESSION (1326)
BY DESIGN (1328)
STEALING HEAVEN (1341)

BY ARRANGEMENT (1346)
THE PROTECTOR (1348-49)
LORD OF A THOUSAND NIGHTS (1350’s)

The hero and heroine in BY POSSESSION appear in BY DESIGN; and the two trilogies are linked by the character David de Abyndon, who is a secondary character in STEALING HEAVEN and the hero in BY ARRANGEMENT.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Review: Jan Westcott’s THE BORDER LORD – A Classic set in 16th Century Scotland…and a Very Worthy Read

This is a wonderful story, but a bit difficult to review. Though it was published in 1946 (it was Westcott’s first novel), it can hold its own with today’s stories. At times it seemed more historical fiction, as Scotland’s history is very definitely a character, but there is also a romance here, a love story of a bold border lord and his lady. And I found it refreshing that it developed in an unusual way. As historical fiction, it drew me in. The dialog was well done and realistic for the time period. As a romance, the story captured my heart but, alas, they were separated often (as they would have been true in history) and that will disappoint some romance readers.

Set in Scotland in the late 16th century (1591-1593), this is the story of Francis Hepburn Earl of Bothwell (presumably based on Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell), a Border lord who fell out of favor with King James VI for his rebellious ways.

In a daring escape from Edinburgh Castle, where he’d been imprisoned on trumped up charges, Bothwell is freed and flaunts his freedom while impressing the daughter of a wealthy Scots nobleman, Anne Galbraith. Anne is a bit of a rebel herself and not above chasing after Bothwell on his latest escapades. Yet there are many other women who love him and one who isn’t above treachery to keep Anne from him. To me, Anne and Bothwell seemed perfect for each other. I loved Bothwell’s devil-may-care attitude and his wit, but he also had a gift with people and a knack for strategy that made him a compelling figure. The sad part was that King James couldn’t recognize the asset he had in Bothwell.

Though this is fiction, Westcott weaves in many historical events and real historical persons, which gave it an authenticity I loved. It was obviously well researched. There is plenty of action and adventure in this story, much of which really took place. And it is very well told. For those of you who like tales from old Scotland with a daring hero and a feisty heroine, and real history on every page, I recommend this one!

The book was included in author Shirlee Busbee’s “short list” when I asked some of my favorite authors to name their 5 favorite historical romances. (You can see the post HERE.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Review: Laurie McBain’s MOONSTRUCK MADNESS – A Classic Keeper with a Scot Heroine Masquerading as a Highwayman and a Scarred English Duke!

Old Cover
This is a classic many authors say influenced them. I can see why. McBain is a terrific author and this is a worthy read.

Set in 1746 in Scotland (prologue), and 1751 in England, this is the story of Sabrina Verrick, the Scot noblewoman, who along with her sister and brother survive after their grandfather, Laird of the MacElden clan, is brutally slain by the English at Culloden Moor. They escape to England where they live in the country at the rundown estate of their father, an English marquis who abandoned them as children. To feed her family, Sabrina becomes the highwayman “Bonnie Charlie,” robbing the rich to feed the poor, including her family.

One man she robs, Lucien, Duke of Camareigh, a gambler and a rogue, is no English fop as are most of Sabrina’s victims. A self-made man, he decides to trap the wily bandit and have his revenge. Once he captures “Charlie,” the duke realizes the highwayman who has been plaguing him and his friends is a beautiful young woman. When she won’t reveal who she is, he decides to try seduction.

Superbly written, you’ll find this one hard to put down. I love the logic of McBain’s intricate plot…no improbable moments here. No contrived black moments. Only great storytelling and suspenseful action. The dialog is clever and the characters wonderfully developed. Sabrina is courageous, good hearted and rebellious to the end and Camareigh is a tough alpha male, just the kind we like to see fall to love’s power.

New Cover
McBain paints vivid pictures of Culloden (to start with) and then the English countryside thereafter, putting you right in the scene. It is so well done. Reading this just reminded me that a 5-star classic never goes out of style. Written in 1977, it sold a million copies. I see why.

This is the first in McBain’s Dominick trilogy:

Moonstruck Madness
Chance The Winds Of Fortune
Dark Before The Rising Sun


I highly recommend all of them!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Review: Aleen Malcolm’s THE TAMING – A Poignant Love Story from the Highlands of Scotland after the Battle of Culloden

This post Culloden story set in Scotland, beginning in 1761, tells of Sir Alex Sinclair, the son of a laird who was exiled following the battle in 1746. When we first meet Alex, he is 25 and living in Scotland, called to Cape Wrath at the top of the country by a friend of his father (the author includes a great map!). Once there, he learns he is to become guardian of a young hellion, Cameron (no last name), who rides a magnificent black stallion across the wild moors. Alex decides to bring the child back to his estate north of Edinburgh to try and tame the hellion. Along the way he discovers his ward is actually a 15-year-old girl, and worse, he’s attracted to her.

This story echoes the heart of the Highlands and the Scots who lost so much on the Culloden Moor. Alex tries to straddle two worlds—the past and the “new” Scotland dominated by the English. Cameron reminds him of “the spirit of true Scotland…wild and free but, alas, undisciplined and with no direction.” For her part, Cameron is struggling to live in a civilization she does not understand. She wants only to ride free and bathe naked in the lochs of the far north. She hates shoes and the female attire she is forced to wear in Edinburgh. She is courageous and endearingly honest, though at times her anger directed at Alex got tiring. Still, you can’t help but love her.

Just to tease you, I’ll tell you her past hides a powerful secret.

The story held my interest and the characters were wonderful, some even memorable. If you love the real Scottish historical romances, I think you might like this one. I recommend it.

This was my first by Malcolm and I intend to read more (see the trilogy below). The story of Alex and Cameron continues in book 2.

The Cameron trilogy:

The Taming
Ride Out the Storm
The Daughters of Cameron

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Review: Kathleen Givens’ KILGANNON – A Classic and a Highland Keeper – Superb Storytelling!

After reading ON A HIGHLAND SHORE and its sequel RIVALS FOR THE CROWN, I became a devoted fan of Givens and her amazing talent for weaving a story from history that sweeps you away. She gave us six stories that are all classics. Givens is a superb storyteller.

KILGANNON is a story of the same Highlander family from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE, but ten generations later--in 1712. Set in Scotland and England, it tells the story of Mary Lowell, a pampered debutante, swept up in London's society of parties and entertainment. Mary saw no suitors that appealed to her but then it was expected she'd marry the Campbell. Then Alex MacGannon, the Earl of Kilgannon, a rough Highlander, shows up at a London soiree one evening wearing a kilt. Mary is intrigued and captivated.

They said Lord Kilgannon was a barbarian, a Scottish clan chief of the MacGannons who sailed the seas in his ships. But Mary finds the Scottish lord polished and with a wonderful sense of humor. Alex is a Scot who knows what he wants and he wants Mary Lowell for his wife, to live with him and his two young sons in Castle Kilgannon. As the Highlands are torn by rebellion, Mary is drawn into the conflict as another man competes for her love.

Alex is every bit the man his ancestor, Gannon, was and I could not help falling in love with him as he pursued the English heroine, a strong woman of character who would leave her own land for his. You will want this one on your keeper shelf, I promise. Givens' writing is wonderfully descriptive and the feelings between the two characters develop subtly and believably. You are drawn into their world without realizing it. And when the obstacles come, you will be rooting for Gannon.

The sequel, THE WILD ROSE OF KILGANNON, continues the story of Alex and Mary as together they face England's wrath. When you can't stop reading, you know you've found a keeper. The two books comprise a rich tale of the 18th century you will want to re-read!

It’s on my Best Scot/Highlander Romances and Favorite Heroes & Heroines lists--and my Top 20!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Review: Marilyn Harris’ THIS OTHER EDEN – Emotionally Wrenching, Enthralling Tale from 18th Century England

It’s hard to see how this book could be rated anything other than 5 stars just for the effort it is. The writing is meticulous, the plot intricate, the characters well drawn and the story enthralling. It’s a well-told tale of cruelty, deception, dishonor and treachery—and, yes, it’s emotionally wrenching. I also thought the ending was melancholy. There are a few other negatives that I will point out that might turn away readers who would prefer a more sedate historical romance. Just so you know, this was my first by Harris, and it’s the first in the Eden series (see list below). I’ve already got book 2 waiting on the shelf to be read though I may take an emotional break before I come to it.

Set in England, beginning in 1790, it tells the story of Thomas Eden, the Fifth Earl and Thirteenth Baron, lord of the stone monolith, Eden Castle, on the Devon coast, and the servant girl, Marianne Locke.

Marianne is no ordinary servant, being both beautiful and taught by a well-educated tutor to young ladies. She is smart and, for the most part, quite a reflective thinker. However, she is naïve and too trusting, and thus taken advantage of by those who would manipulate her, including her sister and Lord Eden. Somehow, through all the betrayals (and there are many), she maintains her kind heart. That I wanted to slap her at times was a reflection of how easily she was misled.

As the story begins, 16-year-old Marianne is being publicly flogged for rebuffing Lord Eden’s advances. The event scars her for life and nearly kills her. (It also drives her father to madness.) All that changes her. Once a spirited beauty, she is now a shell of a young woman, sent to London by friends of her father to see if she can be revived. There she lives with her conniving sister who is jealous of Marianne’s beauty. Jane is the kept mistress of a journalist named William who quickly falls in love with Marianne.

Alas for Marianne, Lord Eden has not forgotten her. No matter he is more than twice her age (she is 16, he is 40), he lurks in the background plotting to have her and willing to do any unethical thing to achieve his goal. Thomas Eden is a man who sees himself above all those who serve him, who thinks he is entitled to take any young girl’s virginity simply because she is “low born.” To their shame, most of his acquaintances aware of his dirty dealings either enable him or look the other way. He goes from one “heinous deed” (his words) to another. I was 3/4ths of the way through the book when I decided this man was beyond redemption. I so wanted to see him fall, and fall hard. In the end, he did not fall hard enough for me.

If you don’t like stories where the hero and heroine are separated for a time, or a “hero” who seems truly evil, this may not be the book for you. Still and all, it is a well researched historical love story that kept me up to the wee hours of the morning—-two nights in a row. So, for the brave among us, I highly recommend it!

The Eden series: (All are Victorian save for the first)

This Other Eden (late 18th century)
The Prince of Eden
The Eden Passion
The Women of Eden
Eden Rising
American Eden
(Civil War)
Eden and Honor

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Review: Johanna Lindsey’s CAPTIVE BRIDE – Lindsey’s 1st Book: A Classic Bodice Ripper with a British Desert Sheik

New Cover
I have read many by Lindsey and consider myself a fan. This was her first book, published in 1977, and you can see how much her writing has progressed since. While it is well written and will hold your interest, it is a historical romance without history or historical details. (I only knew it was Victorian because late in the book she gave the date of 1885, which means it begins in 1884.)

Set in England, Egypt and the desert, this is the story of Christina Wakefield whose brother brought her to London for a brief season when she was 18, following their parents’ death. There she enchanted many suitors who would claim her as wife, but she wanted none of them, preferring her freedom instead, at least for a while. However, one suitor, the enigmatic Phillip Caxton, the son of an English mother and a desert sheik, would have her as his. When she rejects his rather hasty proposal of marriage, he arranges for her brother to be sent to Egypt and then kidnaps her and carries her off to his desert camp where he keeps her as his woman.

The hero is an alpha male, takes what he wants kinda guy. And there is some appeal to that. But Christina, the object of his desire, for most of the book, was a naïve heroine who managed to remain clueless when a normal woman would be paying attention and gaining insight. Abducted and raped (no matter his finesse), she makes excuses for her captor whom she has come to love. However, a series of misunderstandings, coupled with treachery, will keep them apart.
Original cover

Lindsey’s next book, published in 1978, the year after CAPTIVE BRIDE, was A PIRATE’S LOVE and it’s another bodice ripper but much better in my opinion. And Lindsey went on to write books like HEARTS AFLAME (my favorite of her Viking trilogy and a keeper), and many others that have influenced the genre.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Review: Teresa Denys’ THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL – More than a bodice ripper, this classic set in 17th century Spain is a Keeper!

This was my second by Denys and it’s another stunningly dramatic story set in 17th century Spain, and a very worthy read. It tells the story of beautiful Juana de Arrelanos, eldest daughter of a successful merchant who betroths her to the mysterious Bartolomé, Duque de Valenzuela to gain a title. But Juana’s heart belongs to her childhood sweetheart, Jaime de Nueva, and she naively hopes to persuade the Duque to let her leave when he learns she is unwilling.

When she arrives at the sprawling edifice that is Castillo Benaventes, she realizes all is not as it should be. She is not greeted by her intended, but rather by his manipulating uncle who assures her all is well, and the scornful mercenary, Felipe Tristan, the Duque's protector. Behind Felipe’s scarred visage are many secrets, among them his attraction to Juana.

A treacherous plot is underway to use Juana to assure an heir for the family no matter her intended, the Duque, is not capable of siring one, for he is an idiot, deformed in body and depraved in soul. When Juana discovers this, she is desperate to get out of the coming marriage, but her attempts are quickly thwarted. In one brutal stroke, Felipe takes away her options, leaving her trapped.

This was Denys’ first book, and it’s amazing. It's a story of redemption and discovery, rich with intrigue and passion. Her writing is superb, her characters well drawn and the plot intricate. The tension remains until the very end. Juana is a courageous young woman whose unwilling response to Felipe reveals she is not the docile daughter others believe her to be. And always Felipe, the strong enigmatic foreign mercenary, scarred in body and soul, is there in the background, pulling the strings. I felt like I was living in Spain, walking alongside Juana as she experienced the horror of the plans laid out for her, all the while dealing with the obstacles in her path and fighting the passion Felipe has awakened in her.

It’s a superbly written page-turner that kept me reading late into the night. Sadly, Teresa Denys died suddenly in an auto accident in the late 80s, and the world of romance was deprived of a great talent. Her only other novel, THE SILVER DEVIL, is another keeper. I highly recommend them both.


I’ve shown you two covers. Though I prefer the one with the couple, you should know the hero has green eyes and long, fiery red hair, not short and blond.

I bought my copy on eBay and, though not cheap, it was worth it. However, both of Denys’ books, now out of print, are available for download on the Internet for those of you with an eReader.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Review: Laura Parker’s A ROSE IN SPLENDOR – Exciting Irish Romance with Fairy Lore Elements

This was my first by Parker and it just happens to be book 2 in her Rose trilogy (see list below). I think it reads well as a stand alone.

Set in Ireland and France beginning in 1691, it tells of the Fitzgerald family and their daughter Deidre who at 7, is already dreaming dreams that forecast her future. Her nurse tells her she is marked by the fairies—as witnessed by the rose tattoo she bears on her shoulder—and that her mother was a witch. The involvement of the Fitzgerald family and the fairy theme run throughout the book.

One of Deidre’s dreams tells of a handsome young man with nearly black hair and blue eyes, riding a dark horse and wearing a black cape. A man just like that shows up at their Irish estate just as they are forced to leave for exile in France after the Jacobite army loses at the Siege of Limerick. The young man, who suddenly appears in their stable, wounded and bleeding, is hiding from the English troops. Deidre’s quick action saves his life. Though her father is wary and her nurse disbelieving, Deirdre insists the dark haired stranger is destined to be her true love. Her father intends to assure she never sees him again.

Years later, Deidre has grown into a beautiful young woman and is living in France with her family when Killian MacShane, a hero of the French army and a friend of her brothers, comes to visit. Deidre instantly recognizes him as her destiny but Killian, an impoverished soldier trapped in a relationship with a conniving French noblewoman, is not so sure.

This is a well-told story with rich historical detail, vivid descriptions and interesting characters. As with many Irish historical romances, the abuse of the English and their laws that deprived the Irish of their homeland, their property, pride and often their lives, is woven into the tale. And there is the fairy lore aspect that makes this one different.


The Rose Trilogy:

ROSE OF THE MISTS
A ROSE IN SPLENDOR
THE SECRET ROSE

Friday, March 28, 2014

Best Irish Historical Romances



I developed this list for a friend of Irish descent who loves historical romances set in the Emerald Isle or with an Irish hero or heroine to admire, who asked me to recommend some. The romances on my list cover all time periods. Some of the stories transcend typical historical romance as they bring to life heartrending tales of the wonderful Irish people who survived much hardship to help make America great.

This list contains only those I have rated 4 or 5 stars. I hope you find some among them that will bring to mind the Emerald Isle and perhaps give you dreams of an Irish hunk or a worthy Irish heroine.

·       A Rose in Splendor by Laura Parker
·       Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes
·       Black Sword by Kathryn Le Veque
·       Briar’s Rose by Kimberly Cates
·       Bride of the Baja by Jane Toombs (original author Jocelyn Wilde, pen name for John Toombs)
·       Broken Vows by Shirl Henke
·       Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare
·       Countess of Scandal, Duchess Of Sin and Lady of Seduction (Daughters of Erin trilogy) by Laurel McKee
·       Crown Of Mist by Kimberly Cates
·       Dark of the Moon by Karen Robards
·       Dream Lover by Virginia Henley
·       Embrace and Conquer by Jennifer Blake
·       Emerald Ecstasy by Emma Merritt
·       Emerald Prince by Brit Darby
·       Forbidden Love by Karen Robards
·       Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, Viking/Irish trilogy by Heather Graham
·       Her Warrior Slave and Her Warrior King, from the MacEgan Brothers Series by Michelle Willingham
·       Lady of Conquest by Teresa Medeiros
·       Lily Fair by Kimberly Cates
·       Lions and Lace by Meagan McKinney
·       Maid Of Killarney by Ana Seymour
·       Moonlit by Emma Jensen (3rd in her Regency spy series; the only one set in Ireland)
·       Maidensong by Diana Groe
·       Master of My Dreams by Danelle Harmon
·       Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin
·       No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
·       Odin’s Shadow by Erin Riley
·       Passion’s Joy and the sequel Virgin’s Star by Jennifer Horsman
·       Raeliksen and Mac Liam (from the Emerald Isle trilogy) by Renee Vincent
·       Rose in the Mist and Irish Gypsy (from the Riordan trilogy) by Ana Seymour
·       Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With the Wind by Alexandra Ripley
·       Sea Raven by Patricia McAllister
·       Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small
·       Stormfire by Christine Monson
·       Surrender the Stars by Cynthia Wright
·       Tears of Gold by Laurie McBain
·       The Black Angel by Cordia Byers
·       The Game by Brenda Joyce
·       The Ground She Walks Upon by Meagan McKinney
·       The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley
·       The Heart and the Holly by Nancy Richards-Akers
·       The Highwayman by Anne Kelleher
·       The Irish Devil by Donna Fletcher
·       The Irish Duke by Virginia Henley
·       The Irish Princess, The Irish Enchantress and The Irish Knight, trilogy by Amy Fetzer
·       The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen
·       The Irish Rogue by Judith E. French
·       The Passions Of Emma by Penelope Williamson
·       The Rebel by Christine Dorsey
·       The Sword of the Banshee by Amanda Hughes
·       Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
·       Wild Angel by Miriam Minger
·       Wolf’s Embrace by Gail Link

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Review: Christine Monson’s STORMFIRE – A Brutal Irish Bodice Ripper, but a Keeper of a Love Story that Left me Breathless!

This has been a controversial romance, not just because it’s a bodice ripper, but because of some of the harsh elements it contains. So, of course, I had to read it to discover the truth for myself. Some readers might categorize this an “80’s bodice ripper” and so it is, first published in 1984, but I never look at books that way. To me a story stands or falls on its own no matter the era it was written (some of my favorite keepers were written decades ago). If the story is absorbing and the characters compelling, if I can’t stop thinking about it and I find myself reading late into the night, then I know I have a keeper.

It begins in the late 18th century and continues into the early 19th, set in Ireland (mostly), England, Scotland and France. It’s the story of Sean Culhane, a bitter Irishman seeking revenge, and the spirited English beauty Catherine, daughter of John Enderly, Viscount Windemere.

Hardened by the English atrocities he has witnessed, Sean weaves an intricate plan using his smuggling in art, spies and munitions to destroy Viscount Enderly, the man responsible for decimating Sean's family in Kenlo and consigning hundreds of Irish to their deaths. Abducting Enderly’s daughter is only the beginning.

Sean brutally rapes the innocent Catherine and then makes her his whore and puts her to work as a slave on his older brother’s estate of Shelan in Ireland. Catherine fights Sean with every ounce of her being, even trying to escape into the night, while earning the respect of Sean’s men. I couldn’t help but wonder how English atrocities could drive a good man to such cruelty and how an English girl raised in luxury might be affected by such treatment. Then, too, Sean’s initial brutality toward Catherine seemed at odds with the devotion shown him by his housekeeper, his mistress and his men, making me wonder what the real man was like under that hardened exterior. Eventually, as seems inevitable, Sean and Catherine soften toward each other. She comes to understand what motivates Sean’s desire for revenge, and he comes to admire her courage and tenacity.

This is a saga of nearly 600 pages and I cannot do it justice in a review, but let me say there are many twists and turns I did not anticipate in the relationship between Sean and Catherine—and Sean’s brother, Liam (“the more dangerous of the two”). It’s the story of a man who nearly destroys the woman he deeply loves, all for the sake of bitter revenge. And it’s the story of a woman who comes to love that man so that she would do anything to save him. But there is much more to this saga, as others would see them both destroyed.

Into a great story, Monson has woven the pain of Ireland’s history, a beautiful land sorely affected by the English. (It includes the Irish rebellion of 1798 and its aftermath.) The writing is so good, there were times I stopped and re-read a passage just to admire it.

Here is one of Catherine’s musings about Sean:

“His spirit, like the lonely, windswept sea, was ever-restless, ever-changing, sometimes howling down to savage the unyielding land, then caressing it with a lulling embrace, inevitably wearing away its resistance. He was asking her to become a part of him, without reservations, without ties that would inevitably be wrenched apart, leaving her battered on the rocks and him lonelier and wilder than before.”

How I picture Sean

Whatever you might say about this book, Monson’s writing is consistently brilliant and her story absorbing. She did an incredible job creating an impossible situation. When Sean falls in love with Catherine and her unwavering spirit, you want them to be together, yet you can’t see a way for it to happen—a powerful set up for the rest of the book. And there were many obstacles to follow.

I highly recommend this romance for those readers unafraid of what are some raw scenes and more angst than other romances. It’s a well written, worthy tale, and it’s going on my Best Irish Historical Romances list as well as my Favorite Heroes and Heroines list.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

And the winnder is...



Thanks to all those who commented on Kathryn Le Veque's post on Ireland and the research behind her new book.

We have a winner! It's Janice Houghland! Congratulations, Janice! You will be receiving your choice of the eBook or paperback of Black Sword!