Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: A.M. Westerling’s A HEART ENSLAVED – Entertaining Viking Romance

The story begins in Frisia (today a large part of the Netherlands) in 850 as Thorvald Stronghawk, a jarl from Norway, banished by a false accusation of murder, has gone raiding and attacks Gisela’s home, killing her father and taking her captive. Thorvald finds few treasures because Gisela’s father has wisely hidden them. Only his two daughters had keys to the buried chests, Gisela and her sister, who escaped the Vikings.

Thorvald intended to sell Gisela to gain the money to pay compensation to regain his place, but Gisela challenges him to clear his name with the truth, not money. When his evil half brother Karl Wormtongue tries to buy her, Thorvald buys her back, giving up his gold and his sword to keep her. So, Gisela is forced to accompany him back to his home. She is determined to have her freedom and return home, but he treats her kindly, unlike any thrall and she knows she could have done much worse.

A well-written story with some good scenes traveling on a Viking longship and then at the Hedeby market where slaves were sold. The author has done much research into the customs of the Norse and their mythology, which also shows. All in all, an entertaining read.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Barbara Ferry Johnson’s TARA’S SONG – A Viking Saga and a Worthy Read

For those of you who love a good Viking romance, but have trouble finding one, this may be the book for you. It’s available used in paper very reasonably priced. The story of an unlikely, but true, love between two people from different cultures will hold your attention and your heart.

Told from the first person, our heroine, Tara, this is a sweeping saga that covers many years in the life of a young woman you will come to love. You will experience the time period (the 10th century), and how the Vikings lived, including what they wore, what they ate, what they believed, their governing bodies, the ships they sailed in and their marriage and family customs. You also get a feeling for the extent of their raiding and travels in the world at the time, and the use of slaves by the various countries. It was fascinating.

Tara is the beautiful flaxen-haired, younger daughter of an earl living in the south of Britain in the 900s. At 15, she falls in love with Ian, the son of a neighboring lord and they become lovers. He tells her he loves her, but that is something she doubts when Tara's father betroths her older sister to Ian with Ian's full consent. Tara is so distraught she runs away to the nearest abbey where she takes vows and lives for the next 7 years. While she would not have chosen the cloistered life, she finds peace and meaning there.

The story begins when she is 21, and Vikings raid the south of England. The abbey is in their path and all of the nuns are raped and/or killed and the abbey burned. Tara escapes rape only to be taken captive, saved as a prize for the Viking leader who was not at the abbey.

The leader, Rorik, is the eldest son of a Viking jarl. Once Rorik takes Tara onto his ship, he tells her she will become his wife. He ostensibly gives her time to consider this, but then tricks her into a quick marriage. From a nun to a pagan's wife is a giant leap, but Tara is willing to accept her lot and begins to have feelings for Rorik...that is, until they reach his home, Hordaland, where she learns some hard truths. And that is just the beginning of this extraordinary tale.

The story kept me turning pages until late at night. You had to feel for Tara, who is betrayed on so many levels by almost all the men in her life and faces challenges most of us will never know. Of course, at that time women were merely possessions, there for the pleasure of men and their political gain; but it was possible to find love in all of that. And Tara does, amazingly.

If you're looking for a different romance, one that is well written and gives you a real feeling for the time period, I can recommend it. It's a believable Viking romance with lots of action (including storms at sea, adventures on land and on ship, captives, slave trading, wolf attacks, etc.), as well as heartbreaking and heartwarming episodes.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review: Sandra Hill’s THE BEWITCHED VIKING – Unusual, Clever, Whimsical Viking Tale

While this one of Hill’s many Viking stories is not fantasy, it is fanciful. And witty, at times funny and, while not a serious historical romance and sometimes modern sounding, it is also very entertaining.

Set in 952 AD, this is the story of Tykir Thorksson, a wealthy Viking trader in amber, who is sent by the King of Birka (present day Sweden) to find a redheaded witch who, the king is certain, has cursed his male part. The target of Tykir’s quest, Lady Alinor of Yorkshire has been thrice widowed and is done with men. She prefers to be left alone with her sheep. But her two ridiculous brothers want to betroth her once again, this time to a fat man Tykir dubs the Lord of Lard.

Alinor denies she is a witch and resists going with Tykir, but he gives her no choice and so she and her dog and some of her sheep follow Tykir into Northumbria and eventurally to see the king. In a clever story, Tykir comes to believe she is a witch when things happen he cannot explain.

It took me a while to get used to Hill’s style as she begins each scene with a line that forecasts what you’ll see (I thought it was someone’s thinking but it’s the narrator), but eventually I rather liked that feature. She does manage to drop in some historically interesting tidbits so that I could see she knew her subject well and had done much research for her story. The place names are all there, too. The characters are wonderfully drawn and some quite funny. Bolthor the Skald comes to mind with his silly verses.

If you like witty, off beat historical romances with extended love scenes, this is a good one. I suppose all of Hill’s may be similar. I would read another of hers, particularly Rurik’s story (The Blue Viking).

The list of her Viking romances that Hill says are not fantasy:

The Tarnished Lady
The Bewitched Viking
The Blue Viking
A Tale of Two Vikings
Viking in Love
The Viking Takes a Knight
The Norse King's Daughter

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: Tracy Ann Miller’s LOVEWEAVER – Viking Weaver of Spells Falls for Saxon Warrior

The story begins in Hedeby, Denmark in 895 as Llyrica, a weaver who weaves spells into her beautiful trimming design, disguises herself as her old Aunt Solvieg, an expert weaver and resident “old crone”. Llyrica is discovered by a flesh peddler who would have her for himself. He takes her from her home, along with her brother. They ends up in the waters off Wessex, she in the hands of a Saxon warrior named Slayde the StoneHeart, ealdorman of Kent, and her brother (unknowingly) in the hands of their Viking father.

It’s pretty much instant lust on Slayde’s part, no matter they are in freezing water and he is saving her from a shipwreck. But, being the strong “I need no woman” man he is, Slayde ignores his sexual attraction for her and goes about his business. During the day, he berates her in front of his men, accusing her (without reason) of being a whore. But at night he “sleep walks” to her bed where he whispers sweet words of love.

Llyrica is determined to reach the Danelaw where her father, Haesten, is a feared warrior. (She has no idea that’s where her brother ended up.)

Initially I found the author’s word choices and writing style a bit difficult to wade through, but once I got accustomed to it, I found the story entertaining and wanted to see what happened. Miller has obviously done much research into the Viking culture and London of the time and I really enjoyed the historical detail.

Llyrica is a clever heroine who will have Slayde on her terms. Slayde, determined to resist, has not a prayer. Many secondary characters add to the story, making it a rich tapestry. And some exciting scenes will keep your heart pumping. It’s also intriguing with the spells woven into the cloth by the “songweaver”.

Viking lovers will enjoy the match between a Saxon loyal to King Alfred and a Viking maiden from Denmark.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Kathleen Kirkwood’s THE VALIANT HEART – Great Viking Story set in Normandy

This story by Kathleen Kirkwood, a pen name for Anita Gordon, is a great Viking romance. Set in 912AD in Valseme, France, part of Duke Rollo’s Normandy where the Norsemen have settled, it's the story of Rurik, a Northman.

Rurik's father, Gruel Atli, made Baron Valseme by Rollo, is given the Valseme’s heiress, Brienne, to wife. It seems King Charles desires to cement his relationship with the Northmen and Brienne has been biding her time in a convent. But just after the wedding, Atli suffers a heart attack and dies.

Even before her new husband dies, Brienne fell in love with his oldest son, Rurik. So when Duke Rollo grants Rurik’s request to give him Brienne’s hand, she is thrilled.

The story has an intriguing beginning as Rurik sends his brother, Lyting, disguised as a monk to the abbey at Levroux where Brienne is in training to be a healer. And it was a good thing, too, since Brienne’s French brother-in-law has designs on her to make her his mistress. Soon Brienne realizes it’s the Northmen who seem to be honorable.

Great writing and a story that will draw you in make this a wonderful Viking romance. The inclusion of real history reflects deep research, just like Kirkwood’s other stories (I read book 2 first not realizing it was the second—I do recommend reading the trilogy in order). Rurik is a worthy hero and Brienne does have a “valiant heart”.

If you’re looking for a worthy Viking trilogy of romances, this is the place to start.

Heart trilogy:

The Valiant Heart
The Defiant Heart
The Captive Heart

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Review: Sabrina Jarema’s LORD OF THE RUNES – Rune Warrior Meets Shieldmaiden

Set in Norway in winter 850 AD, this is the story of Asa Sigrundsdottir, a shield maiden, and Eirik Ivarson, the warrior she discovered frozen on his horse in the snow. Eirik had fled his home when outcasts attacked and killed his father, the jarl. Struggling with one of the attackers, he went over a crest into the sea.

Revived at Asa’s home, Eirik returns the kindness her people have shown him by reading the runes for the people, as he learned from his mother, and helping Asa carve the runes into the dragonhead she is working on for the stem of a longship.

Asa is afraid of a man’s touch from an incident six years’ earlier. The author was very slow to reveal what it was. From the beginning I assumed it was a rape (Eirik assumed it was abuse). Anyway, at the suggestion of her brother, Asa learned a warrior’s skills to be able to protect herself. In doing so, she earned the respect of the warriors, a shield maiden fighting alongside them.

Eirik tells no one he is a jarl or even where he comes from, which seemed odd, but blends in with the other warriors, fighting when the village is attacked by outcasts. He spends much of his days carving a stone tribute to Asa’s dead father, the former jarl of her people. Her brothers wonder just where he goes each day, but no one follows him to the nearby shed where he works.

Eirik had to be the most gentlemanly Viking I’ve ever encountered: polite to all, sensitive to Asa’s every mood, caring of her dark past which he thinks was abuse, and willing to do whatever he can for her with never a cross word. Asa did nothing to encourage his affection. It seemed to be mostly an attraction on his part until the end.

The story reflects the author’s considerable research into the Norsemen’s pagan beliefs and religion. Beautifully written, much of the story is taken up with the description of applying the magical runes to Asa’s dragon head that seems to come alive under Eirik’s touch. One could have wanted more description of the setting, the winter landscape, the wildlife (never heard a wolf; never saw a dog; the men went hunting and brought back elk, but we didn’t see the hunt or the elk), and even the inside of the longhouse where most of the story took place I wanted more description. (A picture of what the runes looked like would have been great adds, too.) The characters are well developed, especially Asa’s twin brothers who might have their own stories as the series develops, and Estrid, Asa’s jealous cousin who meant her ill.

Recommended for those who love Viking stories steeped in Norse mythology.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Things You Might Not Know About the Vikings...

In my research for my Medieval Warriors series, I have learned much about the Nordic peoples who at one time raided and ultimately settled in England and Scotland. These included the Danes, who settled in Yorkshire and what became known as the Danelaw, as well as other Nordic groups. To write scenes in the home of my half-Danish heroine in York for Rogue Knight, I had to understand the names, the personal grooming habits and the clothing, even the jewelry. And for Rebel Warrior, I had to know about the weapons they preferred and whether the leader of a Viking attack might be dark-haired. Here are some of the things I discovered about “Vikings” from my research:

As a people they were not called “Vikings” but “Danes”, “Norse” or “Northmen”.

The term “Viking” was originally a Norse term describing a raid for plunder. Hence the Danes and Norsemen went “a-viking” or raiding. It wasn’t who they were, it was their hobby so to speak. Only later did the term “Vikings” come to describe the Norse people. In William the Conqueror’s day in the 11th century they were all generally referred to as “Danes.”

They weren’t all raiders; they were farmers and traders.

Although Viking raiders plundered countries like Britain, Ireland and Normandy, the majority of Viking settlers were farmers. Many married local women, grew barley, rye and oats and raised cattle, goats and sheep. Others became metal traders, establishing trading posts in Turkey and the Middle East.

They bathed often.

There is a belief that the raiding Northmen were dirty savages. Not so. Typically the Danes bathed once a week on Saturday. This was at a time when an Anglo-Saxon would only bath once or twice a year. In fact, the original meaning of Scandinavian word for Saturday (laurdag / lørdag / lördag) was ‘Washing Day’.

Arab writers of the time confirm that the Vikings also washed their faces each morning at a time when European Christians did not.
Viking combs
They were fastidious at grooming.

Viking burial mounds reveal many personal grooming tools, such as razors, tweezers and ear spoons. In fact, combs seem to be the most common artifacts
found from the Viking Age.

Danielle Daglan, director of Jorvik's Viking Festival, says, “In ancient images, Viking men are depicted with finely-trimmed beards, and waxed - often curling - moustaches.”

      They bleached their hair.

Not all Vikings were blond; some were brunettes and redheads. However, blond hair was their ideal and hence many bleached their hair with a special soap. Ibn Fadlan, a contemporary Arabic writer, observed that the Vikings bleached their beards to a saffron yellow—to woo the ladies, don’t you know. The strong soap they used for bathing was also good for bleaching their hair.

      They were not all tall and blond.

The Anglo-Saxons described the Vikings as tall and muscular, however, they were not all tall, blond hunks. Historical records show that the average Viking man was about 5’7”, which was not especially tall for the time. But the Vikings were great at absorbing people, and many people who had been kidnapped as slaves became part of the Viking population. So, in Viking groups, you might find Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish, English, French, and Russians — a very diverse group built around a core of Northmen from Denmark or Norway.

Their helmets did not have horns.

While the Norse god Thor wore a helmet with wings on it, which some might think look like horns, there are no records of horned helmets having ever existed. All depictions of helmets dating to the Viking age, show them with no horns.

They loved jewelry, even the men.

Viking graves and hoards tell us that various decorative personal items in bronze, silver and gold were plentiful, including coins.

Viking Age metalworkers were more than highly skilled craftsmen; they were designers and artisans. For example, to make their gold jewelry shine, they cut tiny chips into the designs that would catch the light. They also soldered filigree to the surface of an ornament. And to make a design stand out, they inlaid them with a black compound called niello (silver sulphide).

Both men and women wore brooches, necklaces, neck rings, arm rings and finger rings. In addition to the pins, brooches and such, there are also necklaces. In some Scandinavian cultures, women wore many beads to display the wealth of their husbands. While evidence for necklaces worn by the men is sparse, where pendants are found, the Thor’s Hammer seems to be the most common. No surprise there.

They were into fashion and strong women, quite modern, really.

Vikings were quite fashion conscious. They cared about their appearance, keeping their facial hair well trimmed and waxing, plaiting and trimming their beards.

They favored headstrong, independent women. (However, there is evidence that the Norse warriors kept sex slaves, so these Viking men clearly differentiated between ‘keepers’ and ‘casual’.) Viking women ran households and commanded the thralls (slaves) when the men were away. If a Viking man displayed too much chest hair, his wife could divorce him, and he was liable for alimony. Now there’s a thought.

Like their Anglo-Saxon sisters, Viking women could own property and pass it on, something that changed in England when William the Conqueror came along (as Serena in The Red Wolf’s Prize laments).

With their love of fashion, strong women and dyed hair, they were actually quite romantic figures, and modern.

They were great storytellers and poets, though most could not read or write.

On those long, cold winter evenings, they sat around the fire telling tales about feuds, battles, kings, gods and heroes. They loved poetry and when they feasted, a poet, or skald, was usually invited to entertain them.

When the Danes celebrate their victory in York in Rogue Knight, Waltheof, an actual historic figure who had joined the rebellion, had his Icelandic skald entertain the men.

Vikings memorized their stories and passed their epic poems and sagas down by word of mouth. For one thing, they didn’t have paper. They scratched short messages on wood, stone or metal, which makes dashing off a quick note difficult. They didn’t have an alphabet like ours either. They used the futhark, 16 straight, stick-like letters called runes. Viking swords were handed down the generations, and inscribed with runes meant to increase the sword’s power.

J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have drawn upon his knowledge of Norse myths and legends in crafting his wonderful stories.

       They weren’t all pagans.

The Christianization of Scandinavia took place between the 8th and the 12th centuries. Denmark, Norway and Sweden established their own Archdioceses, responsible directly to the Pope, in 1104, 1154 and 1164. Iceland converted to Christianity earlier, after a debate at the Althing, in the year 1000 AD. Despite the "official" decisions, it took a few hundred years for the people to become Christians. The Roman Catholic Church later sainted the Norwegian King, Olaf for officially adopting Christianity.

If you want to meet some actual Norsemen living in 11th century Scotland, read my novel, Rebel Warrior. It begins with a Viking attack! 
“Rebel Warrior is beautifully layered with true historic figures, facts and authentic history of Scotland woven into a creative and intriguing fictional story. A spectacular, riveting adventure… 5 Stars!”  
 – Tartan Book Reviews

Catrìona of the Vale of Leven has come to King Malcolm’s court wounded in spirit from the vicious attack on her home by Northmen who slayed her parents and her people.

Steinar of Talisand was robbed of his noble father and his lands, forcing him to flee to Scotland while still recovering from a devastating wound. There he takes the position as the king’s scribe.

Treachery, betrayal and war cast a dark shadow over the king’s fortress in Dunfermline. But love also abounds as Catrìona and Steinar will soon discover.

When all is lost, what hope is there for love? Can a broken heart be mended? Can a damaged soul be healed?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: Johanna Lindsey’s HEARTS AFLAME – Superb Viking-Saxon Romance—a Keeper!

January is Vikings month on Historical Romance Review so get ready for those marauding adventurers and their lady loves! I’m starting with one of my very favorites. Hearts Aflame is the second in the Haardrad Viking family trilogy, but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone. It is quite wonderful--an engaging story and well-told. In a bit of a twist, it’s a Saxon lord capturing a Viking maiden.

Set in the late 9th century when Vikings sailed south to England, Scotland and Ireland to raid, it tells the story of Kristen Haardrad, the independent, strong-willed and much loved daughter of a wealthy Viking merchant (whose story is told in book #1). Having spurned her many suitors because she can find no spark of love with any of them, Kristen stows away on her brother's ship believing he is headed to the southern coastal towns for trade where she hopes to find a husband. But her brother is not sailing to trade, but rather to raid. And he is not pleased when he discovers his sister is aboard his ship. Still, he proceeds with his plans.

All goes awry when Kristen is captured and made the slave of the Saxon lord, Royce of Wyndhurst, a favored warrior of King Alfred.

Royce is a tough but fair leader who is betrothed to a manipulating female he doesn't really want. He fights his attraction to his beautiful Viking slave, but Kristen, who has finally met a man who stirs her passion, has decided he is her "heartmate" and she will have no other. Royce wants her in his bed, but Kristen is proud and determined to win his heart.

Lindsey keeps you intrigued with rich characters, snappy (and sometimes funny) dialog, great action scenes and wonderfully believable tension between Kristen and Royce. I loved this story. It's definitely a keeper!

On Amazon
The Haardrad Viking trilogy:

Fires of Winter
Hearts Aflame
Surrender My Love

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Wish for a Great 2017!

Happy Hogmanay!

Hogmanay in Dornoch Scotland

Only one nation in the world celebrates the New Year—or as they call it, Hogmanay—with unparalleled revelry and passion – Scotland! What are the origins of Hogmanay, and why should a tall dark stranger be a welcome visitor after midnight?

It is believed that many of the traditional Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries. These Norsemen, or men from an even more northerly latitude than Scotland, paid particular attention to the arrival of the Winter Solstice or the shortest day, and fully intended to celebrate its passing with some serious partying.

There are several traditions and superstitions that should be taken care of before midnight on December 31st: cleaning the house and taking out the ashes from the fire; and clearing of all debts before "the bells" sound midnight, the underlying message being to clear out the remains of the old year and have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.

Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne. An integral part of the Hogmanay party, which is continued with equal enthusiasm today, is to welcome friends and strangers with warm hospitality, whisky and, of course, lots of enforced kissing for all.

"First footing" (or the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be a dark-haired male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blond stranger arriving on your doorstep with an axe in hand meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year!

As you celebrate the coming New Year, remember what a glorious celebration it is in Scotland!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Christina Skye’s THE BLACK ROSE – Exciting Story of Love Among the Smugglers of Rye with Pirates, Sea Captains and a Wonderful Heroine

Set in 1810, this exciting story is rich in history of the Napoleonic era and the smugglers that made Rye, England famous. It’s also the story of Tess Leighton, impoverished by her father’s debts, who becomes the leader of the Rye smugglers to feed the people and take care of her ancestral home, which is falling down around her.

By night, she runs a dangerous game, one step ahead of the government agents who seek the death of the one called “the Romney Fox”, a smuggler whose calling card is a black rose. In her sleep Tess suffers nightmares from the time her father locked her in the cellars and spiders crawled over her.

After crucial military secrets are discovered being sent to Napoleon, London Viscount Ravenhurst, a hero of Trafalgar, is dispatched to catch the spy. Ravenhurst and Tess have a history: once they were in love. Each felt betrayed by the other and now they are enemies. Worse, he believes she is involved in sending English gold to France, prolonging the war. But neither can deny the passion that still sizzles between them.

He takes her innocence when she is drugged but vows to wed her. She will have nothing to do with him.

Then Tess is betrayed and finds herself the captive of Andre Le Brix, a notorious smuggler pirate, who would claim her as his own. In his arms, she finds the love and peace she seeks.

A very exciting, well-written story of the adventure swirling around the beautiful Tess.
Yes, it’s a bodice ripper and I promise it will keep you turning pages. Great dialog, wonderful characters, a very courageous heroine. What’s not to love? It’s a keeper.

Note: I understand the author has revised and re-released this as Seven Nights with a Pirate. Some reviews say it’s not as good as the original, which is the one I read. I cannot judge the new one, but I loved this original.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Alexandra Ripley’s FROM FIELDS OF GOLD – Unusual Love Story of the American South and Aristocratic London in late 19th Century with a Great Heroine.

The story begins in the South in 1875 and tells of Francesca (“Chess”) Standish, raised to be a lady but at 30, the Civil War has left her with only a rundown plantation and a patent on her grandfather’s machine to make cigarettes. Once her life was filled with laughter, now she is gray and glum. She wants to be married and has all but given up hope until Nate Richardson comes along.

Nate is smart, handsome and ambitious, and desperately wants to gain the patent for the machine that makes cigarettes. When Chess, who is 8 years his senior, tells him he can have the patent if he will marry her, he agrees. 

Ever since he was a teenager, Nate has been in love with the girl who became his brother’s wife. He shows Chess no passion, believing she is not interested and finds his pleasure elsewhere. Chess is so in love with him, she is willing to take the crumbs he offers her. Chess is a heroine to love: brave, smart and willing to wait for what she wants. She knows Nate doesn’t love her but she vows to become the business partner he will respect. And she does, sharing with him his dreams and his passion for the tobacco industry and helping his dreams become reality. 

Though he admires her, Nate is not faithful. But a trip to London will show her the affection she has long missed and awakens in her the girl she once was.

The story reflects the author’s deep research into the tobacco industry in the South and the era of the late Victorian period in London. She captures the life of the idle rich as well as the Americans who led the development of new industries and discoveries. Rich in detail, even as to fashion, with splendid characters, including some actual historical figures, Ripley have given us a great tale. You must wait till the very end for that happy ever after, but I assure you, it’s coming.

I didn’t want to put it down!

Buy on Amazon

Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: Ellen O’Connell’s EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD –Hard Bitten Hero and a Woman Whose Tenacious Love Will Not Let Him Go! A Keeper!

This was my first by O’Connell and from then on, she was one of my “favorite authors.”

Set in Colorado in 1885, this is the story of Anne Wells, who at 28 may be a spinster but she’s not about to accept a man her father would force her to marry. In her escape from her home, she inadvertently runs to Cord Bennett’s small ranch. Cord is the half-Cheyenne son of a wealthy rancher and considered by many to be the very devil. He lives alone raising horses and when Anne shows up, he’s delighted, until her father and some hired guns come looking for her. Her father's fury leads to violence against both Cord and Anne and everyone, save Anne, believes the worst of Cord.

Cord is one of those heroes who no matter what life throws at him, and the horrible way people talk about him, he still manages to keep his honor and defend the weakest, even at great cost to himself.

O’Connell has a clever way of drawing us into Cord’s mind, seeing the world as he does—as his enemy. At one point in the story I thought to myself, if one more bad thing happens to him, I’m gonna scream. But I digress. Suffice it to say, he’s the kind of hero any “real” woman would love. Anne is feisty and courageous, a heroine worth cheering. Together they are a remarkable couple, but it takes them a long time to realize they are perfect for each other. O’Connell portrays them so well, it’s addictive. Oh yes, there are the “good citizens” of Mason, Colorado who do nothing and the really bad villains who do only evil.

Many of the action scenes in this story deal with raising and training horses and, in one case, an amazing race through difficult terrain. O’Connell describes it so well you feel like you’re riding the horse, following Cord’s brilliant strategy and urging him on. Obviously O’Connell knows horses and knows how a good man trains one. It was a delight to read this. Though instructive, it never took away from the romance developing between Cord and Anne.

One of my favorite passages in the story was a thought the heroine has: “…Anne believed she would in the end hear the words she, like all women, longed to hear, but if he never spoke of it, she would be content with this. He loved her, and she knew it, and he was capable of such tenderness it left her trembling, overwhelmed by her own love for him.” Ah…now that was well done!

It’s a great story, well told. You will love it, I promise.

On Amazon

Friday, December 23, 2016

Favorite Heroes & Heroines!

It’s that time of year when I share my favorite heroes and heroines. I have read and reviewed over 900 historical romances and in those novels that I have rated 5-stars there are some wonderful heroes and heroines…noble men who overcome tortured pasts, flaws and the odds against them to love; and heroines who persist against great obstacles to be with the man to whom they would give their heart—strong, intelligent women of character. Every one a worthy hero and heroine.

Here are my favorites, my Christmas gift to you! This just might be your next year’s reading list!


Jamie from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham
Thomas from HOME BY MORNING by Kaki Warner
Jason from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis
Alasdair (“Dair”) from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson
Brigham from REBELLION by Nora Roberts
Bret from WITHOUT WORDS by Ellen O’Connell
Ethan from MOOD INDIGO by Parris Afton Bonds
Sean from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson
Domenico from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Felipe Tristan from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Fulke from THE OUTLAW KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick
Roger from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills
Alex from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas
Tade from BLACK FALCON’S LADY by Kimberly Cates (formerly NIGHTWYLDE by Kimberleigh Caitlin)
Devon from THE WINDFLOWER by Laura London
Gabriel from BROKEN WING by Judith James
Gannon from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens
Alex from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens
Cord from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell
Anthony from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter
Trevor from LIONS AND LACE by Meagan McKinney
Simon from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
Ethan from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole
Derek from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole
Rory from BROKEN VOWS by Shirl Henke
Hawk from CAPTURE THE SUN by Shirl Henke
Simon from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley
Shane from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley
Christian from DECEPTIVE HEART by Maureen Kurr
Drake from PIRATE’S ANGEL by Marsha Bauer
Adrian from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne
Cougar from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw
Derek from INNOCENT FIRE by Brenda Joyce
Johnny from THE OUTSIDER by Penelope Williamson
Julian from THE DUKE OF SHADOWS by Meredith Duran
Wolf from LOVE, CHERISH ME by Rebecca Brandewyne
Jesse from ONE WORE BLUE by Heather Graham
Zack from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson
Shay from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson
McCady from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson
Jamie from OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon
Brandon from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Callum from LAIRD OF THE MIST by Paula Quinn
Lucas from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor
Daegan from RAELIKSEN by Renee Vincent
Roc from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham
Francis from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart
Gannon from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens


Jassy from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham
Chess from FROM FIELDS OF GOLD by Alexandra Ripley
Tess from THE BLACK ROSE by Christina Skye
Katherine from CLANDARA by Evelyn Anthony
Cat from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson
Anne from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart
Margaret from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens
Mary from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis
Miranda from ONCE MORE MIRANDA by Jennifer Wilde
Oriana from ORIANA by Valerie Vayle
Serena from REBELLION by Nora Roberts
Briar from SLEEP IN THE WOODS by Dorothy Eden
Lysistrata from RANGOON by Christine Monson
Catherine from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson
Juana from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Felicia from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Lissa from WHEN ANGELS FALL by Meagan McKinney
Jamelyn from SILK AND STEEL by Cordia Byers
Eleanor from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills
Elspeth from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas
Sarah from BROKEN WING by Judith James
Fallon from PRINCESS OF FIRE by Heather Graham
Mary from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens
Katherine from DANCING ON COALS by Ellen O’Connell
Anne from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell
Kayleigh from MY WICKED ENCHANTRESS by Meagan McKinney
Cassie from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter
Isabeau from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
Maddy from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole
Nicole from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole
Darcy from BEYOND THE CLIFFS OF KERRY by Amanda Hughes
Lauren from THE PRIDE OF THE KING by Amanda Hughes
Scarlett from SCARLETT by Alexandra Ripley
Eleanor from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley
Sara from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley
Summer from THE PIRATE AND THE PAGAN by Virginia Henley
Justine from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne
Flame from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw
Adair from A DANGEROUS LOVE by Bertrice Small
Clementine from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson
Emma from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson
Jessalyn from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson
Heather from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Shanna from SHANNA by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Aislinn from THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Jessie from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor
Whitney from THE PARADISE BARGAIN by Betina Krahn
Skye from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham
Katherine from THE GAME by Brenda Joyce