Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Best Historical Romances Set in Exotic Locales


OK, so it’s August and you’re home and you’re bored. Maybe the kids are going back to school. You want an adventure, an around the world trip, or perhaps an ocean voyage—without leaving your living room. And you want a good love story. But you’re tired of those set mostly in England, Scotland, Ireland and America? Well, I have just the list for you!

My mother taught me to read when I was four and told me I could travel the world through books. She was right. And were she still alive, she would love this list I’ve created just for you daydreamers out there who long to travel…historical romances by some great authors set in exotic locales. Though some might begin (or end) in England or America, they will quickly take you to another time and another place! And all have been rated 4 or 5 stars by me. In each case, the list indicates the location.

Across a Moonlit Sea, The Iron Rose and The Following Sea, trilogy by Marsha Canham (the Caribbean and the Spanish Main)
Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer (France and Spain)
Beyond Innocence by Joanna Lloyd (Australia)
Beyond Sunrise by Candice Proctor (the South Pacific, Polynesian islands)
Bianca by Bertrice Small, 1st in the Silk Merchant’s Daughters series (Florence, Italy and the Black Sea)
Blue Moon by Parris Afton Bonds (Mexico)
Broken Wing by Judith James (France, North Africa and the Mediterranean)
Dark Torment by Karen Robards (Australia)
Devil’s Embrace and Devil’s Daughter by Catherine Coulter (Italy and the Mediterranean)
Falling Stars by Anita Mills (Russia)
Falsely Accused by Margaret Tanner (Australia)
Fields of the Sun by Nadine Crenshaw (Morocco, the Atlantic Ocean and Brazil)
Forever and a Lifetime by Jennifer Horsman (Switzerland)
Fortune’s Mistress, Fortune’s Flame and Fortune’s Bride by Judith E. French (Caribbean and Panama)
Green Eyes by Karen Robards (Ceylon)
Gypsy Jewel by Patricia McAllister (Black Sea, Russia)
Harcourt’s Mountain by Elaine Dodge (British Columbia, Canada)
Hearts Beguiled by Penelope Williamson (France)
Island Flame by Karen Robards (various exotic ports between Lisbon and America)
Lady of Fire and Fire and Steel by Anita Mills (Normandy)
Lady of Fire by Valerie Vayle (the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Turkey and France)
Night in Eden by Candice Proctor (Australia)
Night Shadow by Laura Renken (the Caribbean and the Spanish Main)
No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne (Ireland, France, Africa, India and China)
Notorious Angel by Jennifer Blake (Nicaragua)
On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt (Germany)
Oriana by Valerie Vayle (France, Caribbean)
Rangoon by Christine Monson (Burma)
September Moon by Candice Proctor (Australian outback)
Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss (Caribbean)
Silk and Secrets and Veils of Silk by Mary Jo Putney (Uzbekistan, Persia, India)
Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden (New Zealand)
Splendor by Brenda Joyce (Russia)
Surrender the Night by Christine Monson (Italy, Switzerland and Hungary)
The Book of Seven Delights by Betina Krahn (Morocco)
The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn (Cuba and Mexico)
The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole (the High Seas from England to Australia) and the sequel, The Price of Pleasure (Oceania and Cape Town, South Africa)
The Captive by Victoria Holt (the Middle East)
The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt (France)
The Devil on Horseback by Victoria Holt (France)
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (India)
The Flesh and The Devil by Teresa Denys (Spain)
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne (France)
The Golden Barbarian by Iris Johansen (the Balkans and Sedikhan, a mythical desert country)
The Hidden Heart by Laura Kinsale (South America, Tahiti and the Pacific)
The India Fan by Victoria Holt (India)
The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne (Australia)
The Kadin by Bertrice Small (Turkey)
The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk by Sally Malcolm (fictional island off Africa)
The Lily and the Falcon by Jannine Corte-Petska (Italy)
The Lion's Daughter by Loretta Chase (Albania)
The Lion’s Embrace by Marie Laval (Algeria)
The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt (Australia)
The Secret Rose by Laura Parker (Australia)
The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt (South Seas)
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys (Italy)
The Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee (Jamaica, the Caribbean)
The Storm and the Splendor by Jennifer Blake (Algiers)
The Warrior by Judith E. French (Egypt)
The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham (North Africa, the High Seas)
The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen (Italy) and the sequel, Storm Winds (France)
This Fiery Splendor by Christine Monson (India)
Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney (the High Seas and the Caribbean)
Under Gypsy Skies by Kathryn Kramer (Spain)
Velvet is the Night by Elizabeth Thornton (France)
Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor (Tasmania)

For my own books set in exotic locales, I recommend Racing With The Wind (Paris), Wind Raven (the High Seas, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean) and To Tame the Wind (France).

For more romances on the high seas featuring Pirates and Privateers and Vikings, see those specific “best” lists (the links are on the right side of my blog).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Heather Graham's SWEET SAVAGE EDEN - When America was an Exotic Locale... a Keeper!

This is the first in the North American Women trilogy, part of the 6-book Cameron Saga series (see list below). I highly recommend these romances. They were the ones that led me to become a huge fan of Heather Graham. This is the first book in the series and I loved it. It’s a keeper.

It begins in 17th century England and tells of Jasmine ("Jassy") and Jamie. And it will follow them as they travel to New World (Virginia) which was then very much a wild wilderness, untamed and inhabited by hostile Indians. 

Jassy has had a hard life as the bastard daughter of a dead nobleman. When her mother dies for lack of medical attention, Jassy learns of her connections to a noble family and, through a series of events, the family takes her in but treats her as little better than a servant. There she meets the dark Lord Cameron who wants to marry her because she reminds him of his "wild Virginia" where he is building a new life. Jassy thinks she is in love with his friend, the charming and fair Robert, but Robert has other plans.

Because Jassy fears dying like her mother in poverty, she consents to wed Jamie even though she is not even sure she likes him. But she is honest and tells him she is marrying him so she will not starve.

Jamie Cameron wants the beautiful Jassy—she makes his blood boil—and he believes she will be strong enough to endure the life in the wilderness where there are still Indians and pressures just to survive. But Jamie does not tell Jassy that he intends to take her to the New World because he knows Jassy wants the security of Jamie's beautiful manor in England.

Can she love a man she hates? Can she forget the fair Robert? Can Jamie love the tavern wench who wants only his wealth? So begins an adventure that is so well told and so well done, I will read it again and again. And the others in the series are equally good.

Heather Graham's writing is superb.  Her portrait of wild early America is wonderful. The story pulls you in and does not let you go. There are no slow spots as the action and characters become so real. The sexual tension permeates the book and is very believable. You will love Jassy and Jamie and you will find yourself drawn back to those historical times at the beginning of America when it was truly an exotic local. This is a keeper!

Buy on Amazon

The Cameron Saga:

The North American Women trilogy:

Sweet Savage Eden
A Pirate's Pleasure
Love Not a Rebel

The Civil War trilogy:

One Wore Blue
And One Wore Gray
And One Rode West

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Iris Johansen’s THE GOLDEN BARBARIAN – Desert Sands Make for an Exotic Locale in this Keeper!

This is the first in the Sedikhan series and it's a good one. If you like strong, resourceful heroines, handsome desert Sheikhs and love stories set in exotic places, you'll love this one. As with all Johansen's historical romances, she takes pains to weave a complex tale with wonderful characters and believable sexual tension.

Set in the early 19th century, this is the story of Tess Rubinoff, Princess of Tamrovia (somewhere in the Balkans). She first meets Galen Ben Raschid Sheikh of Zalandan (think desert sands) when she is 12 and he pulls her and her dog out of quicksand. Even then, he has designs on her as he wants to link their two countries in order to gain sufficient power to unify the desert tribes of Sedikhan.

Since she is only 12 when they meet, he will wait; he is a patient man. She spends the next 6 years in a convent at her cousin's suggestion (prompted by Galen) to protect her from an abusive father. When her father rejects Galen's suit, Galen arranges to steal Tess away by making her a proposition she cannot refuse--and she doesn't.

Once in Sedikhan, the adventure begins.

In case you want to read more of them, here is the entire Sedikhan Series (not all are historical; some are contemporary; but all have a link to Sedikhan):

The Golden Barbarian
The Golden Valkyrie
The Trustworthy Redhead
Capture the Rainbow
Touch the Horizon
A Summer Smile
And the Desert Blooms
Till the End of Time
The Last Bridge Home
Across the River of Yesterday
Star Light, Star Bright
Man From Half Moon Bay
Blue Blue Skies and Shining Promises
Magnificent Folly
A Tough Man to Tame

Buy on Amazon

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: Meredith Duran’s THE DUKE OF SHADOWS - Stunning, Complex Love Story Will Sweep You Away to India!

Let me say at the outset, I loved this book. It kept me reading late, late into the night, so you know it's intriguing. It's also different, an emotionally rich tale of love lost and found, set in India (and London) in 1857 and 1861. But I wasn't far into the first half when I realized I needed the following: (1) a glossary (for terms like patois, zenana, sepoy and grisaille), (2) an Urdu-English dictionary (or at least a translation of the phrases and dialog in that language), and (3) a map of India. If she ever does a deluxe edition, I recommend she include those things. But even without them, the story was amazing, more complex than her others.

It begins as Emmaline Martin travels to India to join her fiancé, a self-absorbed, cruel colonel in the British East India Company's army and an impoverished man of noble birth who only wants Emma for her money. The marriage was her parents' idea—her parents who are killed on the ship bringing Emma to India.

Emma arrives in Delhi emotionally bruised but fascinated with the country. She finds the life of an Englishwoman in Delhi's British society to be boring and, as an artist, she wants to see the colors and people in the bazaar but it's just not safe. She meets Julian Sinclair, cousin to her fiancé and heir to a dukedom and is instantly attracted to the handsome British nobleman who has Indian blood and understands the unhappiness of the Indian people living under the rule of the British.

Julian believes there will be an uprising, but he can't get the attention of the British. Of course, he isn't wrong. Much of the first book deals with the uprising and the horrible things Emma witnesses and experiences during that time. Julian and Emma have already realized their love for each other when they are separated in the ensuing battles.

The second half takes place 4 years later when, back in London, Emma and Julian are living as empty shells, he believing she was killed in India and she believing he didn't come for her.

There are many twists and turns in this unique first romance of Duran's as she immerses us in the tumultuous times in India when the Indian soldiers in the British East India Company's army (the sepoys) mutinied in various parts of the country. But in this tale, there is also treachery in the British ranks based on greed.

Duran introduces us not only to a wonderful hero, who loves Emma consistently throughout the book, and a heroine, who is sensitive and brave, but also to some great secondary characters who give you a feeling for the time and the place.

It's a story of survival in war, of learning to understand another culture and its effects on the people who are exposed to it, and of true love that marks you for life. The emotion feels real, not contrived. And the love scenes fit the story. Highly recommended!

Buy on Amazon

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Karen Robards’ GREEN EYES – A Mystery Surrounding Emeralds and Love on a Ceylon Tea Plantation!

Set in 1832, this is the story of Anna Traverne, who is left penniless after her husband dies in Ceylon where they had a tea plantation. Now she and her 5-year-old daughter are at the mercy of her husband’s brother, Graham, who, though married, wants Anna in his bed. She resists and is hiding away in the study one night when a man breaks in and tries to steal the Queen’s emeralds, a set of family jewels that was hidden away in a secret compartment.

It turns out the housebreaker is none other than Graham’s half brother, Julian Chase, spurned by the family but who may, in fact, be the true heir. In a tussle, Julian flees and ends up in Newgate prison. Anna realizes Julian has left the emeralds and they are her ticket to a new life. She takes her daughter to Ceylon where Julian pursues her. Not only does he now need the emeralds that were once his mother’s but he has been told the emeralds hold the key to his heritage.

Robards is a great storyteller and I was immediately drawn into Anna’s life. Bold, brash Julian has been wronged. Understandably he is an angry man and he means to take out his frustration on Anna. Loved them both.

It’s a bit of a mystery and  an exciting read with a nasty villain in Graham and some delightful secondary characters, including the former prostitute who is Anna’s friend and Julian’s sidekick, a man whose life he once saved. There’s also a bit of Ceylon’s darker atmosphere thrown in, too.

Buy on Amazon

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review: Joanna Bourne’s THE FORBIDDEN ROSE – Superb Prequel to the Spymaster Series set in France!

For those who haven't yet read The Spymaster's Lady or My Lord and Spymaster, this book comes first in time—a kind of "prequel"—though it was written later. It’s the story of how Doyle and Maggie met.

Set in 1794 in France, it's a tale of English spies and French undercover work transporting royalists out of France during the time of the French Revolution and Robespierre.

Marguerite is a wonderful young woman who, though raised as an aristocrat, has adapted to the times and is now doing important work that has her wearing many faces. British agent Doyle is after her father who he believes has provided names of English to be murdered by those in control of France. When Doyle realizes he has taken the man's daughter, he keeps her, hoping she'll lead him to her father.

Doyle has never allowed himself to get involved with a woman in the field. Ah, but Marguerite de Fleurignac aka Maggie is no ordinary woman! He gets aroused just looking at her and he admires her intelligence and fierce determination.

In this story, Bourne gives us another strong heroine and another drool-worthy hero. The Doyle who is in the background in the other books in the Spymaster series is now on center stage. The dialog is very witty and at times very humorous. Bourne has mastered the art of suspense and her language is very colorful and fits well the era.

Meticulously researched, as always, Bourne delivers up a detailed, well-told tale. I recommend reading all in the series. Just read this one first!

Buy on Amazon

The Spymaster Series in the order I recommend reading them:

The Forbidden Rose (France 1794)
The Spymaster’s Lady (France and England 1802)
Rogue Spy (England, 1802)
My Lord And Spymaster (London 1811)
The Black Hawk (Paris, beginning in 1794, flashbacks to 1797 and 1802, and London 1818)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review of Meagan McKinney’s TILL DAWN TAMES THE NIGHT- The Caribbean and Pirates Will Sweep You Away

This is a romance that will sweep you away. It has it all: superb writing, intriguing plot, a tortured (but strong) hero and a heroine who won't give up. Oh yes, did I mention pirates?

Set in 1818, this is the story of Aurora Dayne, raised in an orphanage where she stayed on to become a teacher (think Jane Eyre), until the day she received an offer to become a lady's companion in Jamaica. Desperate for a new life, she leaves behind her past and strikes out for adventure, never knowing the invitation came from a pirate named Vashon.

Vashon was the heir to Blackmoor but his twisted half brother sought to kill him and steal the title. At 13, Vashon was sold into white slavery in Algiers and that experience forged the dragon that lives within him. He has grown wealthy as a merchant seaman though he is not above piracy. He has lured Aurora to the Caribbean because her father, a thief, gave her the key to finding a cursed emerald he stole, the Star of Aran--an emerald Vashon's half brother is desperate to have. 

Much of the story takes place on the high seas where innocent Aurora is taken captive by Vashon, who will use any method, including seducing Aurora, to get the clues to the emerald. But Vashon doesn't bargain on Aurora's fierce goodness that sees the lost goodness in him.

A great story of lost innocence, unrequited love and passionate moments that won't be denied...all set aboard ship and turquoise Caribbean seas. You will not be disappointed.

However, I must say that it was most unfortunate McKinney engaged in disparaging Christianity and the message of William Wilberforce (who was truly a great man who fought slavery all his life). It was also unnecessary to the story. If you can overlook the author’s obvious bias, it’s otherwise a wonderful historical romance.

Buy on Amazon

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Jennifer Blake’s NOTORIOUS ANGEL – Unusual and Exciting Story Set in Nicaragua

First published in 1977, this story is set in the exotic locale of Nicaragua, Central America during the years 1855-1857. It tells of Eleanora Colette Villars from an aristocratic New Orleans family. Because of her brother’s folly, she loses her home and ends up following her brother to Nicaragua where he has joined the mercenaries serving William Walker, an American who is trying to take over the country.

Colonel Grant Farrell, head of Walker’s private military, takes Eleanora’s brother as hostage, forcing Eleanora, an innocent, to pose as his mistress. Then he holds her prisoner in his home without even clothes to wear. She even begins to make excuses for the colonel (he’s a half-breed Apache with a poor childhood).

Once her brother is released and she is free, Eleanora doesn’t tell her brother she was raped and, when her brother wounds the colonel in a duel, she returns to Colonel Farrell’s house to tend his wound. While tending the colonel, Eleanora introduces herself as his mistress, apparently resigned to the role. (He has such a low view of women he will not offer her marriage).

Impressed with Eleanora’s medical knowledge, the local doctor invites her to tend the wounded American mercenaries. She takes on the task and, for her valiant efforts, is dubbed “the colonel’s angel.” But she has rivals who seek Eleanora’s demise.

The writing is excellent. Blake really makes you feel like you’re in the hot, dusty streets of Nicaragua in a tumultuous time. I could suggest you might want a map, too, so I’ve included one. Blake has obviously done much research for the book and it is seamlessly woven into the story. The scenes as they tramp from Granada to the coast through the jungles and rivers are very well done, and very realistic. The characters are richly developed, too. (Luis was one of my favorite characters.)

This one will capture you, I promise.

Buy on Amazon
Original cover

Note: The ebook cover shows the heroine with blonde hair; it is actually red. (See original cover to the right issued under the author's name, Patricia Maxwell.)

This book is part of Blake’s Love and Adventure series, part 2:

Surrender in Moonlight
Notorious Angel
Golden Fancy

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: Victoria Holt’s THE PRIDE OF THE PEACOCK – Mystery, Opals and Love with a Peacock in Victorian Australia

Set in the Victorian era (about 1880), beginning in England, this is the story of Opal Jessica Clavering, the youngest daughter in a family that treats her as if she doesn’t belong. At one time the family was wealthy, but now they live in the Dower House next to the estate, Oakland Hall, they once called their own.

When she is 16, Jessica makes friends with the owner of Oakland Hall, Ben Henniker, an opal miner who made his money in the mines of New South Wales. Ben offers her the chance for a new life and Jessica takes it even though it includes a marriage of convenience to his illegitimate son, Josslyn Madden (“Joss”), called “the Peacock” for his pride and his home, Peacocks, in Australia.

Once married, Joss returns to Australia with Jessica, who begins to wonder if her husband isn’t planning to kill her. The famous jewel called the Green Flash at Sunset goes missing and there are no clues as to who took it. And then someone is murdered.

Holt is a great storyteller and immediately had me deeply involved in Jessica’s life. Jessica is a woman who has a curious mind, an adventurous spirit and is courageous to the core. I liked her very much. Joss is arrogant, like a peacock, but he also has depth. Since we are never in his mind, his thoughts remain a mystery except for what he tells Jessica. The fact he wants to see how Jessica changes as she “grows up” suggests he might like her after all.

The characters are richly drawn, the story absorbing and the excitement subtle as Jessica takes on the mystery of the missing jewel, the murder and her husband.

Buy on Amazon

Friday, August 5, 2016

Love on the High Seas!

I love the sea and the ships that sail upon it. I also love a romance with a sea captain hero. So, in writing my Regencies, it was inevitable one or more would be set on a ship. Two of my romances are set, at least in part, on a schooner of the period: Wind Raven, the third in my Agents of the Crown trilogy, and To Tame the Wind, the prequel to the trilogy, a Georgian romance.

When I began to do the research for these stories—the part set on the ship—I had no idea what was involved.

Since I’m committed to making my stories historically authentic, I dove into all the ship terminology, pouring over my new 4-inch thick Sailor’s Word Book until late at night. But I realized just having the vocabulary was not enough. I wanted to be able to describe a storm at sea as huge waves crashed onto the deck and a battle that had shot bringing the sails down around the characters. For To Tame the Wind, I had to describe battles raging in the English Channel. And I wanted to do it all while getting the ship terminology correct. So, I did hundreds of hours of research and studied diagrams of schooners and sail configurations until I was seeing them in my dreams

But even that was not enough. I had to get the feel of the ship. I decided it was essential to take a ride on an actual schooner.

The schooner pictured below, as painted by artist William Lowe, is the Californian, a reproduction of a topsail schooner of the period that, fortunately for me, is berthed in San Diego where I live. It is the type of schooner Capt. Jean Nicholas Powell sails in Wind Raven and his father, Capt. Simon Powell sails in To Tame the Wind. And this is the ship I experienced under sail.

It was thrilling to hear the sails luffing, feel the wind on my face as the ship’s bow cut through the waves and the deck moving beneath my feet. (And, yes, it does move a lot.)

While on board, I soon exhausted the knowledge of the docent, at least as to the Georgian and Regency era ships. However, I found a jewel in the gunner, who became my technical consultant, and now my good friend. She led me through the things my research could not tell me. Even a simple question like whether the quarterdeck should be raised. You’d be surprised at how complicated the answer is.

Some schooners were flush-decked, that is everything on the main deck is on one level, like the Wind Raven and the Fairwinds in my stories, so that you could walk from the bow to the stern without going up or down any ladders. The ship still has a “quarterdeck”; it’s just not raised.

If you compound this kind of issue many times over with everything from windows in the captain’s cabin (side windows existed in larger schooners such as in my stories), to what the captain might read (it’s in Wind Raven), to how a fast schooner can avoid the guns of a larger brig-sloop (it’s in To Tame the Wind), you begin to get a picture of the depth of research required to “get it right.” But the end result, I believe, is a story that puts you on the ships and gives you exciting tales of love on the high seas.

See on Amazon

One reviewer said after finishing Wind Raven

“... it had me feeling the spray of the ocean in my face, my hair and clothing plastered to my body, the chill of my blood when you know, just know that you’re time is up and you’re done for.”  


Want to sail with my characters? Take a look at the storyboard pictures for To Tame the Wind on the Pinterest board. And check out the books on my website