Monday, May 4, 2015

New Review: Vonda Sinclair’s MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER – Hatfields & McCoys in the Highlands

Set in 1618 somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland, this is the story of Gwyneth Carswell, an English woman sent to live with a distant cousin (Laird MacIrwin) in the Highlands for the shame she brought to her family. There she has raised her son, who is now five. Married to a man not of her choosing and then widowed, she is surrounded by clan violence. When a clash of the MacIrwins and their enemies, the MacGraths, leave the MacGrath laird wounded, she takes him in at great risk saving his life. Her cousin, the MacIrwin, finds out she has aided the enemy and, even though he knows she is a healer, he seeks to kill her. So, she flees to the MacGraths.

Alasdair, laird of the MacGraths wants only peace and an end to the 200-year-old. For good reason, he does not trust the MacIrwins and now, as a matter of honor, he must shelter the woman who has saved his life.

This is s story of lovers caught between warring clans and a bit of a mystery about Gwyneth’s son, Rory. Alasdair is a worthy hero who wants the best for his people. In the end, Gwyneth must overcome her disdain for the violence of life in the Highlands if she is to have a future there. There are many love scenes as Gwyneth and Alaisdair give in to their strong attraction. The first half is slower than the last but there’s an exciting finish.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May on my blog--and the Review of Jennifer Roberson’s LADY OF THE GLEN – Superb Storytelling and a Keeper!

Original cover

As Geddes MacGregor once said, “No one in Scotland can escape from the past. It is everywhere, haunting like a ghost." Having been there more than once, I can tell you it is true. For all you Highlander lovers, Scotland’s past is the subject of my reviews this month. And I’m beginning with a great one!

Jennifer Roberson's LADY OF THE GLEN is a keeper, now ensconced on my “to read again” shelf. It has everything I love in a Scottish historical romance: an epic love story, a noble hero, a strong heroine, real history (the massacre of Glencoe), attention to detail and enough suspense and drama to keep me turning pages. Even the music of the Highlands is included. I could hear the pipes and their mournful sound as Roberson described them.

The story begins in 1682 when Catriona (“Cat”) Campbell first encounters Alasdair (“Dair”) Og MacDonald. She is an awkward, uncomely girl raised like one of her brothers by her druken father, but Dair pays her a compliment when no one else does, telling her that she has “bonnie eyes…all bluey-green and bright. The sort of eyes a Highlander likes to come home to.” How could Cat ever forget him after that? Not even though he is one of the dreaded MacDonalds, the enemies of clan Campbell, could she fail to harbor a tenderness for him.

Much happens in this intricately woven tale that spans a decade. It’s the time when King James was exiled to France and William and Mary ruled England. The Scots battle each other as much as the English. Grey John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane seeks to be the power behind the throne and he thinks it is William who will sit on that throne. He exerts his influence to unite the clans, pretending to support King Jamie, while planning on serving the Highland clans up on a silver platter to William. The clans don’t trust him but the lairds have little choice, seeing the English Ft. William erected as a symbol of the English dominance.

Famous battles like Killiecrankie are vividly described as Dair fights with the MacDonalds of Glencoe and the Stewarts of Appin. Both the MacDonalds and the Campbells kill each other’s young men caught reeving cattle, and Dair saves Cat from harm, and she saves his life. All this while another woman shares Dair’s bed. Then Cat’s father agrees to wed her to the Earl of Breadalbane’s son, Duncan Campbell in exchange for money to pay his many debts.

New Cover
Perhaps the most intense moment is the Massacre of Glencoe when the Campbells, joined with the treachery of the English, including the king, murder nearly the entire clan of MacDonalds without provocation. The massacre of Glencoe is still remembered to this day it was such great perfidy on the part of the Campbells and England. A very sad chapter in Scotland’s history. As Roberson says of Glencoe, “’Tis a glen of sorrows, an empty place of blood and broken stone, of charred timber and burial cairns.”

I did not want to put this one down. The author truly captured the heart of the Highlands and the characters she vividly portrays bring to life one of the most incredible periods of Scotland’s history.

If you love Scotland and real Highlander romance—the deep ones—you will love this book! It does have a happy ending, too. 

Highly recommended, it’s on my Top 20 list.

Buy the paperback on Amazon (used is $4 including shipping) 

Buy the Kindle on Amazon

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Review: Cordia Byers’ HEATHER – Treachery and Betrayal in the time of Charles II

My last classic for the month is one from the late 70s, the first book of a great author of historical romances.

This is the story of Heather, a girl of low birth, born in the time of Cromwell and living in the time of Charles II. It begins in 1650 when her mother, a simple but chaste young woman, is raped by some ruffians in Cromwell’s army. Heather, the daughter she gave birth to from that horrible night, became the joy of her life—her only joy. Ellen fled to London where no one would know of her tragedy only to fall under the coach of the Marquis de la Dunban when Heather was two. Heather became the ward and servant of the marquis to be raised with his son, David.

Heather grows into a beautiful young woman, educated with David, who she comes to love. But one of David’s friends, Captain Nicholas Guyon, lusts after Heather and decides he will have her for his mistress. It seems a keyword of this story is betrayal. Guyon betrays the marquis, Heather is betrayed by them all and survives many tragedies and, dare I say it, more than one rape. Byer keeps you turning pages wanting to know just how it will come out. But what Heather suffers in the Tower of London was, I have to say it, over the top.

All comes out in the end because this is romance but oh my, the ride is a rough one.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Review: Betina Krahn’s NOT QUITE MARRIED – From England to America and Back Again in the late 18th century

First released as RAPTURE’S RANSOM, this is the story of Brien Weston, daughter of the Earl of Southwold, who one day wakes up and realizes his daughter, now in her early 20’s is too stubborn and willful and must be married. Believing no man would have her, the earl picks the son of a French business associate for her husband. After she meets him, though he is handsome and smooth talking, she discovers the French nobleman only wants her money. So she determines to make herself unavailable to him by marrying another. A friend finds her a husband in a dockside tavern, one Aaron Durham. He’s a man who, for a sum of money, will wed her and then go away.

When Brien’s French fiancé learns of this, he is furious and promises to get even. Then her father does some investigating and tells her the wedding Brien went through with the stranger was not a real wedding and there is no record of it in the church. Brien is horrified, especially since the handsome stranger consummated the marriage that wasn’t real. Thus, she is forced to marry the man she hates, but then there is a fire…

Original cover, original title
The story begins in 1787 in England but moves to America when Brien happens to take a ship to Boston to sell a part of her father’s business. Turns out the ship is owned by Aaron Durham. Krahn keeps you guessing as to when Brien and Aaron will get together. Aaron is constant throughout but Brien loathes the role of a woman and loves being an active partner in her father’s trading business. Of course in the 18th century nobility considered trade something for the other classes. And, for some reason Krahn kept referring to America as “the colonies” though it was a sovereign nation by 1783.

Still, it’s a fun tale, well-told and I can recommend it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Classics List: How We Got to Where We Are Today: Modern Historical Romance Over the Last Several Decades, or A Recommended Reading List for the Uninitiated

Sometimes when I talk to fellow readers of historical romance, or even authors, and I mention a name from the past, an author who helped shape the genre, like Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, I get a blank stare in return. It occurred to me that as lovers of a genre it might be helpful to read some of the classics to see where we’ve come from and to enjoy the greats who have contributed so much to the craft.

I’m not going as far back as Ivanhoe or Jane Eyre. I’m not even reaching back to the seminal novels of Georgette Heyer in the early 20th century. Except for three novels of note in earlier decades, I’m starting in the 1970s when the bedroom door was flung open never to close again. And while I may not have included your favorite author, by reading the romances on this list, you’ll have a good idea of our beginnings and what so many wonderful authors have done for the genre. Think of it as an education in modern historical romance.

So, here’s the list of the historical romances I recommend you read. Each has something to show you. Some may require you to shop online for a used book though many are available as eBooks. Some that are out of print can be downloaded online. I’m not saying they will all be your favorites, or that they are all mine, and I know that some readers will think I left off one I should have included. This is just a sampling meant to give you a picture of how the genre has developed. Most are novels I’ve rated 5 stars, so I promise you won’t be bored. 

Included because of their significance…

·                Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas (1954)
·                Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden (1960)
·                Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis (1965)

The 1970s: The Pioneering Years

·                The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972)
·                The Wicked Marquis by Barbara Cartland (1973)
·                Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers (1974)
·                Love’s Tender Fury by Jennifer Wilde (aka Tom Huff) (1976)
·                Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain (1977)
·                Caroline by Cynthia Wright (1977)
·                Love’s Wild Desire by Jennifer Blake (1977)
·                The Kadin by Bertrice Small (1978)
·                A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey (1978)
·                Bonds of Love by Lisa Gregory (1978)

The 1980s: The Explosive Years

·                Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee (1980)
·                Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small (1981)
·                Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter (1982)
·                The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys (1984)
·                Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne (1984)
·                Stormfire by Christine Monson (1984)
·                The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis) (1984)
·                Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught (1985)
·                The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham (1986)
·                Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw (1987)
·                The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley (1988)
·                Capture the Sun by Shirl Henke (1988)
·                Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin (aka Kimberly Cates) (1988)
·                Sweet Savage Eden by Heather Graham (1989)
·                Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart (1989)

The 1990s: The Developing Years

·                Dark Fires by Brenda Joyce (1991)
·                The Wind Dancer by Irish Johansen (1991)
·                Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (1992)
·                Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
·                Untamed by Elizabeth Lowell (1993)
·                Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) (1994)
·                Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson (1996)
·                The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson (1997)
·                Night in Eden by Candice Proctor (1997)
·                Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens (1999)

The 2000s: The “Standing On The Shoulders of Giants” Years

·                By Possession by Madeline Hunter (2000)
·                Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes (2002)
·                The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole (2003)
·                Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (2007)
·                Broken Wing by Judith James (2008)
·                My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne (2008)
·                The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (2008)
·                Raeliksen by Renee Vincent (2008)
·                Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell (2010)
·                Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner (2011)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Review: Parris Afton Bonds’ THE CAPTIVE – Classic Tale of Love in the Highlands After the Battle of Culloden

Set in 1751, this is a post-Culloden tale from the Highlands, the story of Ranald Kincairn, Laird of Clan Cameron whose brothers were killed by the English and whose sister they raped. He wants revenge. His plan is to abduct the virgin bride of the new English “Lord Lieutenant of the Western Highlands”—the man who raped his sister—and plant within her a Highlander babe, then send her back. The bride is Enya, a Lowland Scot from Ayrshire whose family, the Aftons, sided with the English.

Though Ranald tells Enya he intends to ruin her, it seems it’s just talk as he puts her to work in the clan castle as a scullery maid, but doesn’t lay a hand on her. As time passes, he is a bit inconsistent toward her. First he tells her he won’t touch her, but threatens to give her to his men; then he tells her no one will take her against her will; finally, he beds her himself. Ranald is a worthy leader of his clan and respected by all. Of course, Enya falls for him.

Original Cover
There are two other romances tied to Ranald and Enya’s—Enya’s mother and the man she has loved since she was 15, and Ranald’s sister and Duncan, a Lowland Scot who came with Enya.

There’s an exciting scene at the end when the villain shows up to reclaim his bride.

Bonds brings to life the Highlands and the struggle to survive after the terrible devastation the English brought about after Culloden as the Highlanders are hunted and the English are determined to wipe out the clans.

And, should you be curious, yes, there is a tie in with the author and the name “Afton” which the author explains in a note before the story.