Friday, November 21, 2014

New Review: Judith E. French’s FORTUNE’S BRIDE – Adventure in the Caribbean in the American Revolutionary War, 3rd in the trilogy a good one!

This is the third in the Fortune trilogy, this one set during the American Revolution in 1777. We begin on the Fortune’s Gift Plantation as Caroline Steele, a widow and Kincaid’s granddaughter, is forced to wed Garrett Faulkner to save herself and her home.

Caroline is a rebel but pretends to be a loyalist with the British soldiers camping at the planation. She believes Garrett is a loyalist. Little does she know he is the rebel privateer captain called Osprey, the one she blames for her first husband’s death and her brother’s capture by the British.

Once wed, Caroline persuades Garrett to accompany her to the Caribbean to search for missing treasure, part of the Incan gold her great grandmother buried. He agrees because she promises him money, which he needs for a new ship. But Caroline's bargain with her husband will prove problematic. What she thought would be a marriage of convenience turns into one of love.

Original cover
Caroline is a heroine much like her predecessors: strong, courageous and gifted with “the sight.” Garrett is a hero of the Revolutionary War taking great risks. There are some wonderful secondary characters and some worthy villains. And Kutii, the ghost of an Incan warrior, returns to give Caroline advice as he did the other heroines.

There’s lots of adventure here, as there were in the first two books, as ghosts from the past contribute to both good and bad in Caroline’s life. French portrays the Caribbean in vivid detail and has done her research to present an accurate historical setting. I recommend the trilogy.

The Fortune Trilogy:

Fortune’s Mistress
Fortune’s Flame
Fortune’s Bride

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Review: Judith E. French’s FORTUNE’S FLAME – Book 2 in the Fortune Trilogy a Great Adventure to the Jungles of Panama!

This is the 2nd in French’s “Fortune trilogy.” It begins in Maryland in 1724, 52 years after the first book. Lady Elizabeth Lacy Bennett (“Bess”) granddaughter of Lacy Bennett (heroine in book 1), is mistress of Fortune’s Gift Plantation. Bess experiences a series of setbacks that have her wondering if she can keep her land and feed her people. Then she remembers her grandfather telling her about a Spanish treasure he buried in Panama, and she decides to go in search of it. To aid her, she will take her new indentured servant, a Scot named Kincaid, and the ghost of an Incan warrior named Kutii who has always been with her. Meanwhile a man called “Faulkner,” whose father once loved Bess’ grandmother, seeks his revenge—on Bess.

This is a tale of adventure as Bess and Kincaid travel into the jungles of Panama with a crew of rough men. French vividly portrays all they see from the teaming wildlife and vicious predators to the beauty of the lush vegetation and bird life. Though neither Kincaid nor Bess wish to marry, Kutii tells Bess the Scot is her destiny. And so he is. Brash and brave, with a past that is concerning, he agrees to help Bess for the money and the freedom it will gain him. But he is to win more.

A worthy trilogy of stories, each a generation or two after the other, but each can also be read as a stand alone. I recommend them.

Note: despite the cover, the heroine in the story has red-gold hair and the hero blond hair.

The Fortune Trilogy:

Fortune’s Mistress
Fortune’s Flame
Fortune’s Bride

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Review: Judith E. French’s FORTUNE’S MISTRESS – 1st in the Fortune Trilogy an Exciting Pirate & Privateer Saga!

This is the first in French’s “Fortune trilogy” and it’s one pirate tale not to be missed! Set in England and the Caribbean in 1672, the story begins as Lacy Bennett, marked as a witch, is bound for Tyburn gallows in London. When the guards worry that a pirate, James Black, one of the prisoners, may try and escape, they chain him to Lacy. However, Lacy has an escape plan of her own. Lacy’s brothers come to her rescue and create a disturbance in front of the gallows, enabling Lacy and James to escape—bound together.

Though a series of events, Lacy and James sail away on her family’s boat across the Atlantic where James seeks to recapture Incan gold he and his fellow privateers lost when their ship was sunk. Betrayed by the pirate Henry Morgan, James is taking no chances when he runs into a man he thought was his friend who demands his share of the gold and Lacy. But James bargains, using Lacy as collateral as if she were his possession, ending Lacy’s trust. But not her dreams, dreams that the gold will allow her to achieve.

French has taken great pains to get the setting, history and details right while weaving a fascinating tale of a woman who, though a wrecker’s daughter and of low birth, is smart and courageous and beautiful. You cannot help but love her. And the hero is the bastard son of Charles II, shunned by his father, who wants to regain what he views as rightfully his. To do so, he is not above using Lacy. He falls in love with the beautiful redhead, but will offer her no more than a courtesan’s life. Though she returns his love, Lacy will not be his kept woman.

French has created wonderful characters, including an Incan warrior who believes Lacy’s visions of future events makes her the “star woman,” foretold in their legends.

It’s an exciting tale from beginning to end with many threads that had me eager to know where the story would lead. I highly recommend this saga of pirates, privateers, legends and the high seas. It’s well told and wonderful!

The saga continues with the rest of the Fortune Trilogy, which I’ll be reviewing this week:

Fortune’s Mistress
Fortune’s Flame
Fortune’s Bride

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And the winner is...

Thanks to all those who commented on Laura Parker's interview about writing a trilogy of wonderful Irish romances.

I am happy to announce that the winner of Laura Parker's Rose trilogy boxed set of eBooks is Lesia Chambliss---Congratulations, Lesia!

And my thanks to Laura for being my guest!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Favorite Author Laura Parker...the Interview!

Today I welcome Laura Parker, USA Today best-selling author of forty plus novels, including 21 historical romances. She was recently named a Legend of Romance and awarded a Pioneer of Romance by Romantic Times. Writing as Laura Parker, she has published historical and contemporary romance and westerns. Writing as Laura Castoro, she has published mainstream romance and women’s fiction. In 2014, she launched a new contemporary suspense series under the name D. D. Ayres. Laura lives in Fort Worth, TX with her husband.

Laura is giving away a copy of the boxed set of The Rose Trilogy to one luckier commenter.

1. What led you to write romance?

I ran out of something to read. I had just finished The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I had three small children, two in diapers and one in kindergarten, so I couldn’t just run out and get a new book or order online, as you can now. I sat down and began playing with an idea. The hero annoyed me in that last book. Every time his temper flared, the heroine wilted like a flower. I thought, “Why doesn’t she just pick a saber up and run him through?” I wrote that scene! Little did I know it would be the first chapter of a book. Or, that I was starting a career as a writer. The book became Silks and Sabers. I had extraordinary good luck in that I sold it to the first publisher I sent it to, Dell Books. No rejection letter, or I would probably be a microbiologist in a lab somewhere.

Most of my characters, a reader once pointed out, are outsiders. They take the risks, and reap the rewards of their daring. I always make my heroines and heroes equals, even if it takes time for one of them to realize that fact.

2. How many historical romances have you written and what is your favorite time period in which to set a story?

I’ve written 21 Historical Romances plus 4 other historicals: two westerns, an Australian saga, and a Victorian historical novel.

My favorite time period would be what I loosely call the Napoleonic Era. It covers the end of the French Revolution right through the Regency Period. It was a period of great social upheaval. For the first time men could rise, even if it was horribly difficult, in station in life. Women’s rights were beginning. Social outlets, balls, pleasure gardens and travel were all coming within reach of men and women who were adventurous enough to do those things. Struggling against the rules is usually at the heart of my romances.

I enjoyed most the research that went into writing The Rose Trilogy. I wrote a book in the 1560s, one in the first decade of the 1700s, and finally one set in Australia in the 1859. This required me to do lots of research. I learned a huge amount of history, social and political, and mores. I came to appreciate such how much the world had changed from book to book. I took my mother on my first trip to Ireland – research! – and we talked so much about how wonderful Ireland was that my husband and children decide a second trip was in order, with them. We rented a castle tower, restored, and lived there on our own for a week. My sons thought they were in a medieval movie.

3. What are you working on now? And will there be another historical romance in your future writing? (Your fans want to know)

I’m writing in another genre at the moment: Romantic Suspense as D. D. Ayres. But, I am reissuing my historical romances, available in all ebook platforms. In addition to The Rose Trilogy: Rose of the Mists, A Rose in Splendor and The Secret Rose, I have another loosely connected series called The Masqueraders available. These are five novels in which one or more of the main characters is in disguise or pretending to be someone else for part of the story. They are: Caprice, Mischief, Beguiled, The Gamble, and Emerald and Sapphire. I didn’t realize I had written so many books with people hiding who they really were until I was looking to reissue them. A fun surprise for me, as the writer. They are every different stories yet share a theme. So, that’s eight books available as ebooks with more on the way next year!

4. Do you plot?

Yes and no. I usually have a deep back story for my characters in my mind. Knowing who they are helps me shape their story. I may have a few big plot points to start, or I know what the main conflict is. But, generally, I like to plot as I go. I’d rather write fifty pages than an outline. I’m a character-oriented storyteller. The characters lead. When the writing is going well they often do and say things I didn’t have in mind when I sat down to work. They sort of take over. I’ve discovered that too tight a plot inhibits my creativity. “What next?” gets me up and going in the morning.

5. Did you plan the Rose trilogy from the beginning...that is all 3 books?

Yes, I was asked to develop a trilogy with a list of ‘don’ts’ instead of ‘dos’ as guidelines from my editor. When I was contracted to write my first historical romance trilogy most historical romance series were about the adventures of a couple, played out over three or four books. My editor asked me for a fresh approach to the trilogy. She guidelines were: Don’t use same couple in each book. Don’t set the books in the Caribbean, England, Scotland, France, the U. S., or the American Colonial period. Don’t use exotic locales that readers wouldn’t be familiar with. BUT, the books must all be connected in some significant way.

I do what I always do when I’m stuck for an idea. I went to the library and roamed the 900s history section until a book caught my eye titled The Twilight Lords. The title alone was enough to intrigue me. It turned out to be about the fifty-year series of wars between the Irish clans and Elizabethan England during the 1500s. England was a “modern” country by some standards but also a brutal and intolerant society, burning so called heretics and witches. Ireland was still a land where clans and families held sway. To be a member of a great clan was to have a family ready to fight and support you. The lowliest member was entitled to the same protection as the Irish chieftains. The Irish might be afraid of the “little people” but they didn’t kill them, only shunned them for fear of bringing bad luck upon themselves. This clash of cultures gave me the beginning of my story.

Both cultures were deeply superstitious. So the idea of using a symbol to represent the unknown came to me after reading several Irish fairy tales. A blood red mark on fair skin was considered a symbol for the Irish that a baby had been “kissed” by the fairies (made one of them) or had been outright stolen and replaced by a fairy child. The Irish avoided anyone with such a mark. But the English, fearing the “mark of the devil” would burn such a person at the stake.

The blood red rose birthmark became my link in the stories and also the symbol of difference, specialty and family lineage. It shows up every one hundred and fifty years in my trilogy, with different effect on the people of the time. It had to be obvious in book one, at a time when people were most superstitious. So the heroine bears the mark on her face. We would call it a port wine birthmark today. In subsequent books, it moved to her shoulder where only those close to the heroine would know about it. By the time of the third book I’d hidden the mark in a very personal place, and moved my Irish heroine to Australia, again part of the Irish experience.

I should add that I was told not to write about Ireland – before Nora Roberts did – that people thought of Ireland only in terms of hardship and famine and death. But I’ve always been a maverick writer. Tell me what to write, and I’ll turn it on its head to make it unique and something that stimulates my Muse. Tell me what not to write, and I’ll find a way to make it work. These books are among my favorites ever to write!

[Note from Regan: I have a “best list” of Irish historical romances and I loved reading them. Of course your Rose trilogy is on that list!]

6. How did you learn to write emotion so well?

Ah, that’s a very good question. I try to imagine how I’d feel in a particular situation. Or, what would have to happen to make me feel the way I need a character to feel. And then I describe what those emotions feel like. I read constantly, mostly non romance authors in order to stay fresh. I think the best writers write great emotion. Even if the emotions are about simple, or some would say unimportant, things. What wouldn’t upset one character is just what’s needed to send another character over the edge. That’s why I like to write from character. And why I like to have a deep back story to pull from for my character’s inner life. What has happened before the reader meets them on the page motivates them as the story moves forward. My stories are about personal journeys. In this case of writing romance, I ask the question: What is required to fulfill for the hero and the heroine the very human need to love and be loved. The answer is different for different people.

Cork, Ireland

7. Why did you pick Irish heroes and heroines? (Which I love, by the way!)

I fell in love with Ireland by association. My mother went to Catholic elementary school and was taught by Irish nuns who told her stories of the ‘old country.’ She was captivated and I got caught up by hearing her stories of them. Ireland is the perfect place for a writer to set a story. It’s the land of fairies and great storytellers, of beauty both physical and emotional. Mists and moors and druids and priests, places holy and unholy. Mystery and pragmatism go hand in hand. The Irish have a great sense of humor, believe in the possibility of magic and omens, bad luck as well as good and do everything with passion. In the Irish character – writ large – there’s no middle ground. It’s all or nothing. They love and hate with equal conviction. Big emotions and big dreams. Failure can become as much the stuff of legion as victory. That’s a unique and captivating vision of the world

8. And tell me how you perfected your Irish accent for the hero?

I did a lot of reading. I read Irish joke books and Irish short stories and jotted down phrasing. After a while you will begin to phrase things automatically. Like talking like Yoda. My editor only let me get away with it because she said the reader would get the gist of the meaning in the sentence itself. I tried not to use too many odd spellings, though I did use some Irish words because it gave the reader the flavor of the period. I bought a book of Irish curses and Irish phrases. These things would be easy to find now, because of online buying. I had to have friends send me stuff I couldn't find. I even had a pen pal in Australia send me book on historical housing, furnishings and clothing. And maps. I couldn't find maps of specific areas in Australia. The maps I could find were like looking for Dime Box, TX on a map of the entire state. Not going to be there. Too small. Back in the day when the copy editor would question everything, including which direction the castle doors opened (Kilkenny castle changed from south to north in the 18th century.  Stuff nobody cares about but me), I had to verify every town, castle, and river. Of course, every book spelled the Irish words differently. I had to pick and stay with those spellings. Och and nae are freebies.

Thanks so much for joining me and answering my questions, Laura. I loved the Rose trilogy and can’t wait to read more of your wonderful historical romances!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Review: Laura Parker’s THE SECRET ROSE– Wonderful Australian Romance, and a worthy 3rd in the Rose Trilogy

Book 3 in the Rose trilogy is an exciting story. I just loved (it can be read as a stand alone, too). It’s Irish, it’s a bodice ripper (well, sorta) and an engaging, well written story of two Irish characters who cross the ocean to fall in love in the bush country of Australia.

It begins in Ireland in 1844. Aisleen Meghan Dierdre Fitzgerald (her many Christian names are from her predecessors, heroines in books 1 and 2) is a red haired Irish lass with a spirited, carefree nature. Like her namesakes, she bears a rose birthmark. But unlike them, as a child she saw no visions, though she did have a mysterious Irish lad as a playmate.

When she is 12, Aisleen’s father, who wanted a son and hates his daughter, sends her away to England as a companion to another, richer girl. There, Aisleen is educated and becomes a very proper lady and a governess. She also loses her spirit and her fire.

In 1857, when she is 25, believing she will never marry, but not wishing to be a burden to her mother, she decides to accept a position on the other side of the world in New South Wales. There, she becomes desperate and accepts the only offer she has, one of marriage to a glib Irish bushman and a former prisoner, an “emancipist.” Thomas Butler Gibson hails from Cork, as does Aisleen. (If the name Butler sounds familiar, it should from the other books.)

And so, the story begins…

This is a very well written tale (as were books 1 and 2) with a worthy hero and heroine, both Irish, and many other wonderful characters. Parker’s writing is elegant and descriptive; she brings Australia to life. You will see the vegetation, hear the sounds and smell a country so foreign to Aisleen who is used to living among the English gentry. Parker uses Gaelic words and speech patterns to distinguish the characters and give it an Irish feel, though we are in Australia. And she does a wonderful job with it.

It’s a story of the Irish forced to leave their homes and of rediscovering one’s true nature and one’s dreams. Both Aisleen and Tom have been negatively affected by the English, and the history of this time in Ireland is reflected in the story. Like the others in the trilogy, there’s a bit of magic in it, but it only adds to a splendid historical romance. I did not want this one to end and the trilogy is on my “keeper” shelf.

I highly recommend it and all the books in the trilogy!

The Rose trilogy (and the years they are set in):

Rose of The Mists - 1569
A Rose in Splendor - 1691
The Secret Rose - 1844

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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

This is book 2 in the Rose trilogy but it can be read 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.

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 the man of 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. I recommend it!

The Rose Trilogy and the years in which the stories are set:

Rose of The Mists - 1569
A Rose in Splendor - 1691
The Secret Rose - 1844

Monday, November 10, 2014

New Review: Laura Parker’s ROSE OF THE MISTS – A very worthy first in the Rose trilogy from Ireland!

This is the first in a trilogy of great stories where the heroine bears a birthmark somewhere on her body in the shape of a rose. The birthmark comes with the unique ability to see visions of the future, but that aspect does not detract from wonderful, well-told romances.

Set in Ireland in 1569, this first one is the story of Meghan O’Neill, a girl who has a rose birthmark on her face that makes the peasants fear her for a witch. One day, while in the woods, she saves Sir Revelin Butler from drowning. Revelin, though Irish and from the aristocratic Butler family, is on a commission from England’s queen to chart Ireland with three other men. Though Revelin has plans to marry Lady Alison Burke, after he encounters Meghan, he wants only to find the mysterious girl who fled after rescuing him.

Parker recreates the world of 16th century Ireland with great period dialog, worthy characters and wonderful descriptions of the beauty of Ireland. I felt I was there. I loved the hero and heroine and their coming together as Revelin struggles to find his true destiny—and his true love. The wolfhound “Ualter” was priceless.

It’s an exciting read, too, with some great action scenes that will have you biting your nails.

Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be featuring the other two books in the trilogy. And on Friday the 14th, Laura Parker will be my guest. Join us!

The Rose Trilogy

Rose of The Mists - 1569
A Rose in Splendor - 1691
The Secret Rose - 1844

Saturday, November 8, 2014

New Review: Sandra Worth’s THE ROSE OF YORK: LOVE AND WAR – 1st in a Great Trilogy, a Love Story Wrapped in Excellent Historical Fiction

Set in the time of the Wars of the Roses, when the houses of York and Lancaster battled for the throne of England, this the story of two real life lovers, Lady Anne Neville and Richard of Gloucester (the last Plantagenet king). It’s the first in a trilogy based on ten years of thorough research of the life of Richard III of England (1452-1485).

LOVE AND WAR tells of Richard and Anne’s early life, before he became king, when they were first childhood friends and then bonded sweethearts, though still in their teens.

As a young boy, Richard of Gloucester (“Dickon”) is forced to flee England with his cousin, the Earl of Warwick (“the Kingmaker”), to save his life and that of his brother, George, while his older brother Edward stays to fight the Lancasters. When Richard returns at the age of 9, he meets 7-year-old Anne Neville, Warwick’s daughter, and the two children instantly recognize each other as kindred spirits.

Though Anne eventually is forced to marry the Lancaster heir, Edouard, son of Marguerite d’Anjou, he is slain in battle, and she and Richard finally hope to marry. Instead, because of treachery by Richard’s brother George, the couple encounters another devastating obstacle that threatens to part them forever.

You will be amazed at how these young people, as young teens, accomplished so much and carried such a great weight of responsibility. If it weren’t history you would criticize the author for making the young characters seem too adult. But it really happened.

Worth writes well, captures the feel of the late medieval period, and weaves history into an absorbing tale like a rich tapestry. But in telling that history, there is much sadness, too, so be prepared. While the trilogy tells of the love between Richard and Anne (and that of other couples as well), it is not romance in the classic sense. Yes there is a happy ending (at least for this first book), but it is more historical biography or historical fiction that features as a central theme the love story of the main characters. Parts of it are truly depressing, not because of Worth’s storytelling, but because of the tumultuous time in England’s history and an English court the author describes as “rotten with intrigue,” where treachery abounded, good men were betrayed for a king’s whim and slain for the threat they presented, the dreadful Elizabeth Woodville (commoner Queen of England) plotted to end her rivals, and honorable mean were slain.

If you like a lot of history with your love stories and find the wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster fascinating, this is the series for you. The three books form the continuing saga of Richard’s life.

The Rose of York trilogy:


Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Review: Kaki Warner’s PIECES OF SKY – 1st in the Blood Rose Trilogy Worthy Western Historical from New Mexico Territory

This is the first in Warner’s Blood Rose trilogy, named after the roses that surround the RosaRoja ranch owned by the three Wilkins brothers in New Mexico Territory. Set in 1869, this is the story of Jessica Thornton, on the run from her home in England and the brother-in-law who raped her and left her pregnant with his child. She is trying to get to the only man she trusts—her brother.

At a stagecoach stop Jessica encounters Brady Wilkins, oldest of the Wilkins brothers. He’s just taken a spill from his horse and looks beat up, and to Jessica, talks rough. But she does love his blue eyes, which appear to her like pieces of sky. Brady finds the Englishwoman’s strange ways funny (their exchange and Jessica’s thinking are very funny)—and he hasn’t laughed in years. And then came the stagecoach crash…

Both Jessica and Brady have scars; and each has sacrificed their own happiness for others. Both are bound by duty, and though from different worlds, inexplicably drawn to each other. I loved their exchanges, her dry wit, his suggestive banter. Warner writes beautifully, expressively (“Like a blind foal on a short lead, Brady knew he would stumble along wherever he was led—as long as she was on the other end of the rope.”)

In this and the two stories that follow, there’s lots of action, a despicable nasty villain and a fair amount of violence (sometimes told through flashbacks that bring the horrible to mind). There’s the budding romance between two unlikely people to add sweetness, but this is no sweet love story. It’s a tale of vengeance.

Warner’s style is unusual, complex and detailed. She gives you the gory details when it comes naturally to the story. She slowly develops her characters like a stew simmering all day on the stove. The three brothers and their interactions are priceless and very well written. This first book also has some great humor early on as Jessica, a very proper British lady, encounters Brady, the rough American rancher and domineering older brother.

Most of the three stories take place on the sprawling RosaRoja ranch. Warner paints vivid word pictures of the historic setting and the environs that give you a sense of the rugged, open West and make you feel like you’ve lived there.

You’ll have to be patient as each story unfolds, but I think you’ll find the wait is worth it. All the stories are related with several common characters, including the brothers. Warner does a great job of tying up all the loose ends in the last book, Chasing The Sun.

Here’s the Blood Rose trilogy—do read them in order:

Pieces of Sky (RITA winner for Best First Book) – Jessica and Brady
Open Country (RITA finalist) – Molly and Hank
Chasing the Sun – Daisy and Jack

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Review: Kresley Cole’s IF YOU DARE – 1st in an Enthralling Scottish trilogy

This is the first in one of my favorite Highlander romance trilogies. And with it, Kresley Cole won me as an ardent fan. She writes well as she weaves the intriguing tales of three brothers and the women they love. The MacCarrick brothers now have my heart. Once I finished with the trilogy, I promptly re-read all three.

The tales begin with a five hundred-year-old "curse," the writing of which was obscured so that no one really knows how it end. Cole does her homework on the historical setting--it feels authentic--and she makes you fall in love with Scotland and it's men. She gives them a Scottish personality that is hard not to love. These three brothers are sexy and strong and pursue their women with a passion.

This first story begins in 1856 in the Pyrenees, the mountains between France and Spain, as a group of mercenaries led by Courtland MacCarrick wages war for a General Pascal. When Court turns on the evil general, Pascal orders him killed and Court narrowly escapes but ends up half dead on the doorstep of Lady Annalia Llorente, Pascal’s fiancé. Court decides to abduct Annalia, a beautiful Castilian. Lady Annalía Llorente despises her towering, barbaric captor almost as much as she does her fiancé. But then she begins to be attracted to him. Still, she must wed Pascal to save her brother and Court knows there’s this curse that keeps him from claiming the woman he wants.

There are many twists and turns in these stories that will have you reading way past your bedtime. And while I love all three of them, the last is my favorite, the story of the oldest brother, Ethan. Cole brought the three stories to a very satisfying end.

Here’s the MacCarrick Brothers trilogy:

If You Dare (Court)
If You Desire (Hugh)
If You Deceive (Ethan)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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

November is Romance Trilogies month on my blog and I’m beginning with a truly great one! This is a classic many authors say influenced them. Written in 1977, it sold a million copies. I see why. McBain is a terrific author and this is a worthy read—and the first in a great trilogy!

Set in 1746 in Scotland (prologue), and 1751 in England, this is the story of Sabrina Verrick, the Scottish 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.

Original cover
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. Just 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.

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.

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!

Friday, October 31, 2014

New Review: Denise Domning’s SPRING’S FURY – Rich in Medieval Detail and an Exciting Story!

Set in 1194, this is the story of Nicola of Ashby, a tall warrior woman, and Gilliam FitzHenry, brother to Rannulf, Lord Graistan. The story opens as Gilliam is assaulting Ashby manor and kills Nicola’s father, calling him traitor. There is obviously a prior history between the characters and prior events have taken place; hence I recommend you read these books in order (this is the 3rd book in the Graistan Chronicles, series list below).

Gilliam intends to marry Nicola to gain Ashby, which he has already started rebuilding after he burned down all the cottages and manor. But Nicola will not marry the murderer of her father so she flees on the day they are to wed. Seemed reasonable to me. Fierce and clever, Nicola manages an escape dressed as a lad and once in the woods, slays four thugs who would capture her for the ransom money. Domning did a great job with these fight scenes…very exciting. When Gilliam learns of Nicola’s success, he is impressed and eager to tame the wild woman. He has a history, too, having apparently had an affair with his brother’s wife who carried his child. Both are now dead. (We never do get the full story on that one which I assume is in the prior book.)

Original cover
Eventually Gilliam will force Nicola to wed him and the story of their difficult path to love begins.

Domning takes pains to provide accurate historical details reflecting her deep research into the medieval period. While there isn’t much history here the book has an authentic medieval feel in characters, setting and all that goes with it. Domning serves up a worthy hero and heroine, too. I loved Nicola’s spirit and her courage. And who could not find Gilliam charming and admire his persistence in taming his new wife? This is a well-written, action packed story.

Lovers of medieval romance will want to read this series—but do it in order!

The Graistan Chronicles (in the boxed set, it’s the Seasons Series):


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Best Medieval Romances!

Who among us ladies hasn’t dreamed of a knight in shinning armour? Or, of living in a time when valor prevailed and honorable men did great deeds and women of character loved them? (I did say we were dreaming, right?) Well, these historical romances will take you back to those medieval times.

Since the medieval period in European history spanned the 5th century to the 15th century, all the stories on my list take place during that period; however, some Scottish, Irish, Viking and Pirate/Privateer historicals from that time period not listed here can be found on those specific “Best Lists” (found on the right side of my blog).

All of these listed below have garnered 4, 4 and ½ or 5 stars from me:

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
Betrothal by Jenna Jaxon (the first part of a 3-part story)
Bianca by Bertrice Small (1st in the Silk Merchant’s Daughters series)
Blackheart by Tamara Leigh
Blue Heaven, Black Night by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis
Bride of the Lion by Elizabeth Stuart
By His Majesty’s Grace, By Grace Possessed and Seduced by Grace by Jennifer Blake
By Possession, By Design, Stealing Heaven, By Arrangement, The Protector and Lord of a Thousand Nights, 14th century London series by Madeline Hunter
Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd
Come the Morning, Conquer the Night, Seize the Dawn, Knight Triumphant, The Lion in Glory, and When We Touch from the Graham series by Shannon Drake
Damsel in Distress by Shannon Drake
Desire of the Heart by Katherine Vickery (aka Kathryn Kramer)
Enchantress, Kiss of the Moon and Outlaw, Welsh trilogy by Lisa Jackson
Everlasting by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Impostress, Temptress and Sorceress, Welsh trilogy with fantasy elements by Lisa Jackson
Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson
Lady of Fire and Fire and Steel, from the Fire Series by Anita Mills
Lady of Valor from the Warrior trilogy by Tina St. John
Laird of the Wind by Susan King
Lespada by Kathryn Le Veque
Lie Down in Roses by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Lord of Desire, Lord of Temptation and Lord of Seduction, Risande Family trilogy by Paula Quinn
Lord of Vengeance by Tina St. John
On a Highland Shore and Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens
Princess of Fire and the sequel Knight of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey
Rosamund by Bertrice Small, 1st in the Friarsgate Chronicles
Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne
Shadowhawk by Barbara Bettis
Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale
Siege of the Heart by Elise Cyr
Silk and Steel and the sequel Desire and Deceive by Cordia Byers
Silverhawk by Barbara Bettis
Sword of the Heart by Maureen Kurr
The Angel Knight by Susan King
The Bedeviled Heart by Carmen Caine
The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux
The Christmas Knight by Michele Sinclair
The Conqueror, Promise of the Rose and The Prize, trilogy by Brenda Joyce
The Dragon Tree by Marsha Canham
The Falcon and the Flower, The Dragon and the Jewel and The Marriage Prize, the Plantagenet trilogy by Virginia Henley
The Game by Brenda Joyce
The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
The King’s Rebel by Michelle Morrison
The Last Knight by Candice Proctor
The Lily and the Falcon by Jannine Corti-Petska
The Lion’s Bride by Connie Mason
The Outlaw Knight (aka Lords of the White Castle) by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Raven and the Rose by Virginia Henley
The Rose of Blacksword by Rexanne Becnel
The Rose of York: Love and War, The Crown of Destiny and Fall From Grace, trilogy by Sandra Worth
The Swan Maiden and The Stone Maiden from the Maiden trilogy by Susan King
The Warrior’s Game and Spring’s Fury by Denise Domning
The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Through a Dark Mist, In the Shadow of Midnight and The Last Arrow, Robin Hood trilogy by Marsha Canham
Untamed, Forbidden and Enchanted, trilogy by Elizabeth Lowell
Warrior’s Song, Fire Song, Earth Song and Secret Song, medieval series by Catherine Coulter
When Love Awaits by Johanna Lindsey
Where Love Dwells by Elizabeth Stuart
Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning
Wonderful, Wild and Wicked, trilogy by Jill Barnett

And, if you will allow, do consider my own medieval romance just published this month, The Red Wolf’s Prize!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New Review: Rexanne Becnel’s THE ROSE OF BLACKSWORD – Exciting Medieval set in 12th Century England

Set in 12th century England, this is the story of Lady Rosalynde of Stanwood, a young beauty whose father consigned her and her young brother to live with their aunt and uncle when their mother died years ago. And now Rosalynde must travel home to Stanwood Castle to tell her father her brother has died.

On the way to Stanwood, outlaws set upon Rosalynde and her knights. She and her page escape, but the page is wounded and Rosalynde seeks the only help she can find—that of a condemned criminal—agreeing to handfast with him to save him from the gallows if he will help her get home. The outlaw they call Blacksword is really Sir Aric of Wycliffe, a knight of renown, who is none too happy about being nursemaid to a lady and her wounded page—he seeks only vengeance on those who falsely accused him of crimes. But when he learns that Rosalynde is now her father’s only heir, he decides to seek more than a reward—he wants to make their handfast a real marriage to gain her and her lands.
Original cover

This is a great story, well told—a page turner. Though there is no real history, there is a genuine historic feel and a real historic setting. Sir Aric is a noble knight but also a wily one, and Rosalynde (“Rose”) is not indifferent to his wooing. But her father sees Aric as a criminal and requires him to work as a servant at Stanwood Castle. Aric stays, rising to become a man at arms constantly reminding Rosalynde that she is his wife.

Lots of action, mystery and adventure with an exciting ending. I recommend it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Review: Marsha Canham’s THROUGH A DARK MIST – Wonderful 1st in the Robin Hood Trilogy of Medieval Romances

Marsha Canham has delivered an amazing set of medieval romances with her Robin Hood trilogy, wonderful tales of knights and their ladies. All are set in the time of Richard the Lion Heart and his brother and successor to the throne of England, King John—in 13th century England. All are rich in historical detail, lots of action and have love stories that will tear at your heart.

THROUGH A DARK MIST is the first and tells the story of the Black Wolf of Lincoln and Lady Servanne de Briscourt and is set in the woods of Lincoln and at the Bloodmoor Castle in England. The Wolf, also known as Lucien Wardieu, abducts Servanne for ransom on his way to regaining his rightful name and saving a young heir to the throne. His lands were stolen by his bastard younger brother, the Dragon Lord of Bloodmoor Keep (Lady Servanne's betrothed), who thought he had killed his older brother in the Crusades. The Black Wolf is a drool worthy hero and Lady Servanne is a delicate beauty with a spine of iron. Just the kind of hero and heroine I like!

Lucien had a cold heart that couldn't be touched until Lady Servanne's courage and purity of heart captured him. It’s a great story, well told and is followed by two more I recommend:

IN THE SHADOW OF MIDNIGHT is the story of the Wolf's cub, Eduard, and his red haired headstrong love, Lady Ariel de Clare, who will not be marrying the man King John has promised her to, thank you. She has her own plans, but even those go awry as her heart is captured by Eduard FitzRandwulf d'Amboise, who has been tasked to transport her safely to a prince in Wales her father has agreed she'll marry instead of the King's man.

THE LAST ARROW, which I thought was the best in the trilogy, though all are good, is the story of Brenna Wardieu, daughter of the Black Wolf and the sensual and dark Knight Griffyn Renaud, who is full of dark secrets but cannot withstand the lure of Brenna who can shoot the long bow better than any man and can ride a knight's warhorse. The third book, which gives the trilogy its name, raises all the Robin Hood legends and weaves a story that had me racing to follow the action and tearing up at the love scenes all at the same time. It was simply magical.

The Robin Hood Trilogy: