Monday, May 21, 2018

Virginia Henley’s THE BORDER HOSTAGE - A Wonderful Scottish Love Story

I love Virginia Henley's ability to immediately put me in the middle of an exciting story involving people with strong passions dealing with difficult circumstances. The Border Hostage is no exception. It reminds me of the pirate stories I love: a strong hero who takes what he wants though he has a gentle and noble heart; and a heroine who will not be captured even if her heart longs for the man who abducts her. All this and Scotland, too! I do recommend reading Tempted first as this is the 2nd in Henley's Clan Kennedy Saga and is truly a sequel with some of the same characters as the first.

The story is set in 1514 on the Borderlands between Scotland and England after Flodden Field where King James IV was killed. Young James V, still a toddler, is being raised under the watchful eye of his English mother (Henry VIII's sister) and the Earl of Angus, acting as guardian for the young king. Tina who is married to Black Ram Douglas is about to give birth to twins and her half brother, a bastard and half Gypsy, Heath Kennedy, is raising horses at the Douglas Castle. A raid by Scottish borderers nearly costs Heath his life.

In an act to recover his horses and have his revenge, Heath captures the Dacre heir (for ransom) and his betrothed, the dark-haired Raven Clarendon. Heath has seen Raven before and wants her for his own, so he decides he will not let her go when the Dacre heir is ransomed.

Raven is a wonderful heroine, fiercely independent and innocent (though not unaware of the ways of men). She is a free spirit who is trained by her grandmother in the ways of the Craft, a natural healer and (unusual for a woman), a falcon trainer.

This is a case of love at first encounter. Heath was quite clear about his desire to possess the lovely Raven. He'd had many women but she was the first to capture his heart. While Raven was attracted to Heath, she was trying to please her parents and marry the man she thought she was supposed to. That is so very believable.

This was a worthy sequel to Tempted. Frankly, I enjoyed the two books so much I was hoping there were more in this saga. Henley does a superb job of weaving in the history of a tumultuous time in Scotland's history with compelling tales of love. She created such wonderful characters I wanted to see more of them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Virginia Henley’s TEMPTED - Captivating Story of Scottish Love in the Borderlands—a keeper!

In a complex, lusty tale of feuding Scottish clans during the time of James IV of Scotland and Henry VIII of England, Henley serves up a story that will grab you from the first page and will not let you go. I loved it. Henley has the ability to capture not only the time period, but also the culture of the borderlands between Scotland and England and the difficult but wonderful relationship between two stubborn, courageous people. I highly recommend this one.

Set in Scotland in 1512, this is the story of clans Douglas, Hamilton and Kennedy. Beautiful Valentina Kennedy, the oldest of the Kennedy daughters, was known as Flaming Tina for her glorious red-gold hair and her feisty temper. She was raised with her sister and brothers in Castle Doon in Ayr on the Southwest coast of Scotland where her father ruled as the Lord of Galloway. Tina despaired the lot of women that prevented them from enjoying male pursuits, and she frequently joined her brothers in their activities.

When Tina turns 17, her father insists she say yes to one of her many suitors. Tina thinks to marry the Hamilton heir but is happy when a gypsy tells her there will be no wedding for her this year. In a surprising turn of events, she is handfasted to her enemy, the powerful Black Ram Douglas, who she considers a brute of a man. Tina intends to have her revenge.

Henley develops some wonderful characters, including the ghosts of two star-crossed lovers from the past (another Kennedy and Douglas pairing), who constantly entertain. She paints vivid word pictures of the food, clothing and castles that draw you in and help you experience the times--and she does it all very well. In a fitting climax to the story, she superbly describes the battle between the English and Scots at Flodden where Scotland experienced a terrible defeat.

The second in the 2-book Clan Kennedy Saga is The Border Hostage and I recommend it, too!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nora Roberts’ IN FROM THE COLD – Brilliant Story of a Scot and an Irish Lass on the eve of the American Revolution… A Keeper!

Set at the outset of the American Revolution, beginning in December 1773, this is the story of Ian MacGregor, who was wounded by a British soldier after participating in the Boston Tea Party. Ian fled to the wilderness of Massachusetts where he ended up in the barn of the Murphys and in the care of the young Irish widow, Alanna Murphy Flynn.

Alana is immediately attracted to the red-haired rebel but she fears his talk of revolution, not just for herself but for her brothers. Ian has fallen in love with Alana and means to have her as his wife. But he’ll need his aunt in Virginia to help him.

Brilliant descriptions and beautifully developed characters bring this story and the MacGregors to life.

Revolution is coming to America and while Alanna would resist, Ian knows America must fight for her freedom. Roberts adroitly weaves the conflicting emotions of the time into a love story between two strong-willed people. It’s a well told, fast-paced novella and so good one could only hope for more. 

The first story in the MacGregor series is Rebellion and I highly recommend it. However, all of the others that follow In From the Cold are, sadly, contemporaries. Would that Roberts would have continued writing historicals as it would have been fascinating to see her tell the history of America along with the MacGregor love stories. She did historicals so well.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Collette Cameron’s TO LOVE A HIGHLAND ROGUE – Charming Story of a Match Made by the King

Set in the Highlands in 1720, this is the story of Logan Rutherford, Laird of Lockelieth Keep, who was betrothed when he was six to Mayra Findlay, then a baby. They meet again when she is eighteen. He has decided to pose as his lookalike cousin, Coburn Wallace, to get a look at his soon-to-be bride. At issue is her dowry, half of which Logan’s father squandered before he died and the other half which Logan needs to save his lands.

Mayra thinks her absent betrothed is uncaring—he never answers her letters—and so she is determined tend it. Besides, she needs the remaining half of her dowry to save her family’s home. But she needs Logan’s help and the king’s permission. When she meets the handsome Coburn Wallace (never realizing he is Logan), she has another reason—she has fallen in love.

This is #1 in the Heart of a Scot series and it’s a good start, a witty story well told of Logan and Mayra’s slide into love. Cameron tosses in some unusual words and phrases that will make you smile and some Scottish brogue that gives the story an authentic feel.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day!!

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” ~ Stevie Wonder

      I wish you all a wonderful Mother’s Day full of good memories. My mother was a busy single mom, but she took time to teach me to read when I was four and took me to the library every Saturday morning to get some books. She was a great example and I miss her.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Scottish Highlands in Autumn

I have been to Scotland several times and one of my favorites was in September when the heather was blooming. The picture below is one I took. You can see all the photos from my trip on Pinterest HERE.
Heather on Skye in September
 From Elizabeth Stuart's HEARTSTORM, comes one of my favorite quotes. These are the thoughts of Anne MacKinnon, the heroine:

  “Autumn in the Highlands would be brief—a glorious riot of color blazing red across the moors and gleaming every shade of gold in the forests of sheltered glens. Those achingly beautiful images would be painted again and again across the hills and in the shivering waters of the mountain tarns until the harsh winds of winter sent the last quaking leaf to its death on the frozen ground.”

Autumn near Stirling

If you'd like to read one of my historical romances set in Scotland, I have three to offer you:

Rebel Warrior
The Refuge
A Secret Scottish Christmas

Rebel Warrior and The Refuge tell the story of Steinar of Talisand and Catriona of the Vale of Leven and take place in the court of King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret. The Refuge is the inspirational version.  

See them on Amazon along with A Secret Scottish Christmas, my newest Christmas story, a Regency in the Agents of the Crown series.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Nora Roberts’ REBELLION – Superb Storytelling of the Rising of 1745 and a Love That Would Not be Denied – A Keeper!

The story begins in 1735 when Serena MacGregor’s home in the Highlands is invaded by British dragoons and her mother is raped by their leader who wants to shame a Highland’s chief’s wife. And that night hatred for the English was born in Serena. Ten years later, in 1745, her brother Coll brings home his friend, Brigham Langston, whose mother might have been a MacDonald but he is English.

Serena means to hate Brigham but ends up falling in love. Brigham wants the fiery tempered lass and means to have her. But there is a matter of the Jacobite Rising of 1745 that will interfere.

It’s a time of rebellion in the Highlands as the Scots, sick of English oppression, long for their Bonnie Prince Charlie, their “king across the waters” to return and reclaim his throne. The Germans may reign in England but the Scots want their true king restored.

When I read about the Battle of Culloden that took place in 1746 and see the images that represent that fateful day, I am always deeply saddened. Not just for the battle that was lost or the thousands of Scots slain, but for the cruelty of England inflicted thereafter on a generation of Highlanders. The English destroyed a way of life.

Roberts brings this time in Scotland’s history to life with superb storytelling, wonderful characters and brilliant dialog. Rich in historical detail and passion-filled love, this is a keeper. I fell in love with Brigham whose heart beat to the Highlands though he was an English lord. And I cheered on Serena as she finally decided to claim the man her own heart could not deny.

First published in 1988, this is the story of the historical roots for Roberts’ contemporary MacGregor series. I am so sorry she gave us only two historical romance novels before moving on to other genres as her historicals are very, very good.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Iris Johansen’ THE MAGNIFICENT ROGUE – A Scottish Rogue to Love, a Tale to Savor—a Keeper!

Set in 16th century England and Scotland, this is a magnificent tale of strength born of hardship and love that develops even when denied.

He was the Black Robert of Craighdhu, a remote island castle in Scotland, where he was laird. Half Spanish and experienced in their tortures as well as their pleasures, he'd been a pirate and had incurred both the praise and anger of Queen Elizabeth, who has now seized him for another assignment: The Queen wants him to wed Kathryn Kentyre who, he is told, is Queen Mary's illegitimate daughter.

Kathryn ("Kate"), now 16, has been raised in seclusion by a vicar who is going insane and beats her. She is bent on escape. But Robert McDarren will find her and handfast with her and then sweep her away to his castle in the Highlands where he intends to keep her for only a year. For he knows who she is threatens Craighdhu and he will do anything to protect his lands and his people.

You won't regret reading this one. It is well written, the characters wonderful, and the plot believable. The action will draw you into the world of treachery, envy, betrayal and deception that existed at the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James.

A romance from a favorite author of mine and well worth re-reading—a keeper!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Julie Johnstone’s WHEN A LAIRD LOVES A LADY – Love in the Highlands with a Reluctant Laird

Set in 1357 in Scotland, this is the story of Marion de Lacy, a woman who is half Scot but raised by her English father who paid her little attention. When he attempts to force a marriage upon her to an evil knight, she escapes with the help of her friend, Angus, who wants her to join the MacLeods of Skye. Before she can reach them, she’s captured by the knight.

Iain, laird of the MacLeods was married to a woman he loved. With her death, he wants never to marry again. Yet he’s agreed to marry Marion by order of the English king, Edward, to save the Scottish king, David.

In this well-written story, we meet some delightful characters and see how an arranged marriage can lead to love. Great dialog adds to the characters’ interchanges and there are some exciting scenes.

The hero, Iain, is an unusual man. He apologizes frequently and is unselfish and caring to the woman he was forced to marry, considering her in all he does. Marion is a saint, kind to her enemies and wanting only to win her husband’s love. Iain’s clan mostly accepts her but the sisters of his former wife are not pleased at their laird’s new marriage.

The path to love has many twists and turns, including treachery, betrayal and, for good measure, a seer. And enjoyable Scottish historical read.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Laurin Wittig’s THE DEVIL OF KILMARTIN – Absorbing Highlander Romance!

Set in the Highlands of Scotland in 1307, and mostly at the Kilmartin castle, this is the story of a beautiful woman, Elena of Lamont, who has great healing power in her hands. 

Elena's clan’s leaders would use her for their own purposes and, at her father’s death, a ruthless man, seeking to be clan chief, decides he will have Elena to wife to gain the power that her father had. But Elena hates him and hates being used so she flees…right into the arms of The Devil of Kilmartin, the chief of Clan Lachlan, Symon MacLachlan.

Symon is plagued by violent head and stomach aches that he believes Elena can cure. He wants to bind her to him by offering her sanctuary, and perhaps more. And then there is the prophecy about flame and madness mingling to make his clan prosper…

Wittig draws a fascinating picture of clan life and the historical setting of 14th century Scotland. And the characters and their emotions are timeless. This is a well-written tale that will hold your attention from page one. I recommend it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

May is Scottish Historical Romance month on the blog… Love stories featuring Highlanders and Scots and wonderful history. I’m beginning with a classic you won’t want to miss (it’s available for Kindle).

First published in 1946, this is a wonderful story that can hold its own with today’s stories. It’s historical fiction, as Scotland’s history is very definitely a character, but there is also a romance here, a love story of a bold border lord and his lady. And it was refreshing that it developed in an unusual way. As historical fiction, it drew me in. The dialog was well done and realistic for the time period. As a romance, the story captured my heart but, alas, they were separated often (as they would have been true in history).

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

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

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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Shirlee Busbee’s WHISPER TO ME OF LOVE - Suspenseful, Stunning Regency—a Classic and a Keeper!

This is the captivating story of a rich American in Regency London and a waif of a young woman who lost her place in the aristocracy due to one man’s evil. (The villains in this story—and there are more than one, although one is more evil than the others—are some of the best I’ve encountered.)

It begins in 1796 when Hester Devlin, Dowager Countess of St. Audries is dying just after the birth of her daughter, Morgana. Months before, Hester’s husband was murdered—unbeknownst to her, by his brother who wanted his title and his wealth. Overhearing the man’s perfidy instructing another to “get rid of” Hester’s baby, she leaves clues in a Bible and prays her child survives. Morgana does. By 1815, 19-year-old “Pip” is living on the streets of St. Giles as a boy with two young men she thinks are her brothers.

Royce Manchester is a handsome American with lands in Louisiana and England, a connection to the nobility and enough money to buy anything he wants. One day, while out with his friends, a street urchin (Pip) tries to pick Royce’s pocket. Royce plucks the boy from the streets and decides to give him a better life. When he discovers the boy is actually a woman named Morgana, he makes her a maid in his London household—for her safety. But she is hardly safe from him, as he wants her for his mistress. (Of course, he would never marry a petty thief.) And then he recognizes her striking gray eyes…the St. Audries eyes! He assumes she must be the bastard child of the earl, his enemy. Ah, the plot thickens.

It’s 400 pages of action and mystery with many twists and turns. I recommend it!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Kat Martin’s GYPSY LORD – Great Classic Gypsy Love Story set in France

Set in 1805, beginning in England, this is the story of Catherine Barrington, Countess of Arondale who, because of her cousin’s avarice, is abducted and sold to gypsies in France. Catherine is a survivor and manages to keep her innocence in tact, but is unable to gain her freedom. When tall, handsome Dominic sees one of his Romany band beating a beautiful, flame-haired woman, he buys her for his own.

Dominic has no idea of Catherine’s real identity and she never tells him. Nor does he tell her that he is the educated and English-raised son of the Marquess of Gravenwold. He wants her as his lover (he has vowed never to marry) but “Catrina” (his name for her) denies Dominic and plots her escape.

This is a well-told classic with lots of twists and adventure as Dominic woos the woman he wants and she resists. Treachery abounds and there are some exciting scenes to add to the love story set in the time of Napoleon. Some great characters add depth, including Dominic’s gypsy mother. While most of the story takes place in France, it does end in England.

If you like the rich historical detail found in classic romances, this is a good choice. And who doesn’t love a handsome half-gypsy?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Shirl Henke’s NIGHT WIND’S WOMAN – Superb Storytelling in this Classic Love Story from the Old West!

Set in 1787 in the north of Mexico and New Mexico, this is the story of a half Apache-half white renegade, Night Wind (his Apache name), who as a child was taken captive by the Spaniards and forced to work in the mines, a virtual death sentence.

Keenly intelligent, Night Wind escaped and was raised and educated by the Catholic fathers. As an adult, he regained his Apache roots and works to free Indian prisoners and take vengeance on the Spanish conquerors. His hated enemy is an Irish mercenary who is now the Governor.

Night Wind decides to take the governor’s son captive and raise him as an Apache. Instead, by mistake he captures the governor’s stepdaughter, Orlena Valdez, a beautiful golden-haired Spanish Castilian. Orlena is no shrinking noblewoman. She is educated, outspoken and willing to fight for fair treatment for the Indian prisoners. It never occurred to her that sneaking out in boys’ clothes to view a festival would land her in the arms of Night Wind.

In her well-researched, intricately detailed novels, Henke captures the feel of the Old West as she weaves a wonderful story of cruelty, injustice and revenge—revenge that is conquered by both goodness and love. She brings us into the time when Spain dominated not only Mexico, but what would one day become the Southwestern United States, a time when both the Apache and the Comanche were preyed upon and sought their revenge on the white man. As Henke recognizes in her Author’s Note, there were good and bad men in both camps.

I highly recommend this trilogy!

The Santa Fe Trilogy:

Night Wind's Woman
White Apache's Woman
Deep As The Rivers

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Catherine Coulter’s THE SHERBROOKE BRIDE – Great Start to the Regency series with a Cast of Worthy Characters

This is the first in the Sherbrooke Brides series and a must read if you want to read any of the others. In it, we are introduced to the family and most prominently, the elder brother, Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe.

Douglas, a cold man who takes seriously his duty as head of the household, has no real interest in marrying except to fulfill his duty to produce an heir. In considering the woman he will take as a bride, he decides on the one woman he recalls, the stunningly beautiful Melissande, who he once courted only to leave her for the army. And so, when called to France for a special assignment, he sends his best friend, Tony, to wed her by proxy.

Alexandra Chambers, Melissande’s younger sister, has loved Lord Sherbrooke since she was fifteen, but she will give him up for her sister if it must be. In a bizarre twist, Melissande ends up wed to Tony, who marries Alexandra to Douglas by proxy. And to make matters worse, there is a troubling appearance of the family ghost, the Virgin Bride.

What began with a less than honorable meeting of Douglas and his brother Ryder to discuss their many bastards, turned out to be a delightful story, most notably due to the heroine, her interactions with Douglas and some very funny dialog involving her sister, who is being “handled” by Tony. Douglas’ sister, Sinjin is also a fascinating character. The ghostly bride didn’t figure large in the story, at least until the end when she directs Douglas at a time of crisis.

Coulter writes well and tells a good tale. I am a fan of hers and always find her books a good read, hence I want to read more in the series.

The Sherbrooke Brides series

The Sherbrooke Bride (1992)
The Hellion Bride (1992)
The Heiress Bride (1993)
Mad Jack (1999)
The Courtship (2000)
The Scottish Bride (2001)
Pendragon (2002)
The Sherbrooke Twins (2004)
Lyon's Gate (2005)
Wizards Daughter (2007)
The Prince of Ravenscar (2011)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How We Got to Where We Are Today: Modern Historical Romance Over the Last Several Decades, 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. Except for four 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 a Recommended Reading List for the Uninitiated in modern historical romance.

So, here’s the list of those I recommend, a sampling meant to give you a picture of how the genre has developed. Some may require you to shop online for a used book though many are available as ebooks. Most are novels I’ve rated 5 stars, so I promise you won’t be bored. 

Included because of their significance… and to show you what was out there early

·               The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (1950)
·               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 (1988) Re-published as Black Falcon’s Lady
·               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)
·               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)
·               Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell (2010)
·               Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner (2011)