Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Review: Cordia Byers’ NICOLE LABELLE – Southern Bayou Beauty Finds Love with a Man Who Seeks Vengeance

Set in Louisiana around 1830, beginning in the bayou, this is the story of Nicole Sentelle, whose father, a trapper, is an evil man, causing the death of Nicole’s highborn mother. Her mother’s dying wish was that Nicole would return to their cousin and rich relation, Quinton DuPree, master of the Live Oak plantation. But the note she gave Nicole to carry with her was left behind when Nicole fled into the swamp after her mother’s death and her father threatened her. It was there she met Alex Chandler in a chance encounter and he helped her to bury her mother.

Nicole arrives at Live Oak in a bedraggled condition, but is immediately accepted by Quinton, older than her by 20 years and a kind widower. Suddenly, his lonely days are full of life. Nicole reminds him of her mother whom he loved deeply. Not surprisingly, he falls in love with Nicole and asks her to marry him. On the eve of their wedding, unbeknownst to anyone, Nicole’s father kills Quinton. Seeing the body, Nicole flees in sadness and is thrown from her horse to awaken with amnesia.

Alex Chandler, who would have had Live Oak but for the change in Quinton’s will to leave it to Nicole, believes Nicole shot Quinton and now Alex seeks vengeance on the beautiful girl.

Byers has given us a great plot with mystery and some great twists. I did think that in places, Alex’s mistrust of Nicole and his harsh behavior (once leaving her in a weakened condition on the wrong side of town in the dead of night) was a bit over the top. And their coming together in the end seemed a bit abrupt. Notwithstanding these things, and while not at the same level as her Pirate Royale, this is an engrossing read.

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Review: Tanya Kaley’s LADY HIGHWAYMAN – 18th century Bodice Ripper (sort of) and an Enthralling Story!

This was Kaley’s debut novel and I have to say it’s a wonderfully exciting read that I could not put down.

The story begins in the North West of England in 1743, where Rosalinda lives in poverty with her parents and three brothers on Lord Windermere’s magnificent estate. In a cruel response to her brothers’ poaching to put food on the table, the boys are sent away and her husband transported to the Colonies. Thus, Rosie loses her family in one fell swoop. Seeing the men lusting after Rosie’s virtue, her mother decides to send her to London to live with her aunt, never knowing the aunt runs a bawdy house, the worst of its kind.

Before she leaves, Rosie encounters a handsome highwayman, who is the alienated son of an English lord. Blake Glenowen, a dark, mysterious figure, takes a fancy to the beautiful young woman, repeatedly saving her from those who would rob her innocence or do her harm. Yet all the while, he warns her of danger, including himself, as he covets her innocence.

Will she be robbed her of her innocence by Blake, or will Blake do the noble thing? Blake cannot marry her, as he has no life to share with a woman. Yet, when they finally get together, Rosie will join him in his highwayman’s adventures.

This is very much a “perils of Pauline” story as Rosie goes from one misadventure and narrow escape to another, in both England and France, all the while thinking of her dark savior. The characters are endearing and the story captivates. For a time, Rosie lives with Gypsies and learns to love their culture though a Gypsy king is determined to have her for his woman. And Blake hovers in the background.

It is well written and exciting. There are bodice-ripping elements, to be sure, but the hero never forces the heroine. The ending is a bit abrupt, and there are a few forms of address issues, but there’s enough story here to satisfy the discerning historical romance reader.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Review: Jennifer Blake’s ROYAL SEDUCTION – A Great Bodice Ripper set in Louisiana with a Prince of a Hero

Classic Cover
Another well-told story from Blake, and this one a bodice ripper with a European prince for a hero…

Set in 1829 in Louisiana, this is the story of Angeline Fortin who lives with her aunt outside of New Orleans. Angeline, a chaste young woman, has a look-alike cousin, Claire, who has returned from Ruthenia in Europe having fled the murder of her lover, the heir to the throne. When his younger brother, Prince Rolfe, comes to New Orleans in search of Claire, who he thinks murdered his brother, he mistakes Angeline for her cousin.

Rolfe abducts Angeline and forces her to his bed, whereupon (of course) he discovers she is a virgin. Realizing he has the wrong woman, does he apologize profusely and return her to her home? No, he keeps her prisoner as his mistress, telling her she can be free if she will only tell him of her cousin’s whereabouts. Of course, she declines, hoping to protect her cousin. And one doubts he would have released her even then.

New cover
Much of the story is taken up with the search for Claire, and there are villains aplenty as they ride through No Man’s Land where a pack of Scottish bandits and a Spanish horde of ruthless outlaws seek to tear Claire from Rolfe. But Rolfe is wily and fierce in his defense of the woman he is coming to admire and to care for. The mystery of Claire’s involvement in the murder of Rolfe’s brother continues and treachery lies amidst Rolfe’s cadre of men. Someone is seeking to kill Rolfe.

This is a well-written story that kept me turning pages, a bodice ripper with a great plot and a fine ending. The hero is noble if a bit selfish and the heroine, who begins naïve and a bit weak, ends up showing great courage and regal presence.

You will not be disappointed, I promise.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Review: Victoria Holt’s THE DEMON LOVER – Gripping Story of a Tumultuous Love, a Bodice-Ripper set in England and France in the late 1800s

cover with correct hero hair color
Just so you know, this is not your ordinary Victoria Holt gothic murder mystery. Set mostly in France in the late Victorian period, this tells the story of Kate Collison, of the famous (fictional) Collison family of brilliant painters of miniatures, each artist signing the portraits “KC.” In each generation, the next son takes up the art to astound patrons in England and in Europe. Unfortunately, Kate’s mother, the daughter of a duke, gave Kate’s father, Kendal Collison, only a daughter. But Kate was determined to become better than any son of the family who had gone before her.

When her father develops cataracts and his ability to paint the fine strokes diminishes, she becomes his eyes. Signing the portraits “KC,” as all in her family have, no one would know a woman had painted them. A new commission arrives from a baron in Normandy who wants miniatures of himself and his fiancée, a princess. So, Kate and her father travel to France, intending to do the miniatures together. At the baron’s castle, before he arrives, Kate begins to fall in love with the baron’s cousin Bertrand de Mortemer. And then she meets the Baron, Rollo de Centeville, who by his own description is “arrogant, overbearing, impatient and self-willed.” In addition to that, he was clever, soon figuring out that the miniature he comes to admire is being painted by Kate, not her father. He also intends to have his way with Kate, no matter the cost to her.
nice cover, wrong hair color on him
An ingenious, intricately woven plot that had me turning pages, it tells the story of a selfish man who, like his Viking forbears, thought nothing of raping a woman to get what he wanted. And so he drugs and rapes Kate and then holds her prisoner for the purpose of reminding Bertrand that he, the baron, is in control. I must say that I had a bit of trouble understanding how Kate, having gone home to England, could return to France after what happened to her, or how she could keep from those who loved her that she’d been brutally raped by the man they admired. Nor could I understand how the Baron’s mistress, Nicole, would, after being cast aside by the Baron, try to convince Kate she should be more understanding of him. But such are the twists and turns in this story.

I loved Kate’s spirit, her determination and her strength. And I thought the way Holt showed how the artist gleaned the nuances of the subject’s personality while painting was masterful.

As in all bodice rippers, there is a certain satisfaction is seeing the Baron have his comeuppance, though even then, one can certainly agree with the hatred Kate feels for the man who ruined, as well as benefited, her life. Unlike some of her stories, Holt brings the heroine’s feelings about the “hero” (sometimes the baron seemed more the villain) to the fore early on, and that was good.

Holt does a brilliant job of showing us what the people of Paris lived through in the 1870 siege of the city by the Prussians when the people were starved into submission.
Like her other novels, it is told in the first person. A well-written bodice ripper, it does contain rape; and while there are no details or vivid descriptions, the fact of it is no less horrible.

There’s a surprise ending awaiting you. The story is a keeper. I recommend it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

New Review: Johanna Lindsey’s LOVE ONLY ONCE - The First of the Rogues and a Good Beginning to the Malory Saga

In this first in the Malory series, we meet Lord Edward and Lady Charlotte Malory and the whole family of brothers and uncles and their beautiful, much-loved cousin, Regina Ashton. Reggie knows that at 19, it's time for her to marry, and though she has many suitors and dozens of offers, none of her uncles can agree on a man. So, she lingers on the vine, bored with the whole social scene.

When Viscount Nicholas Eden, a rake who seduces even innocents, kidnaps her in a case of mistaken identity, Reggie doesn't resist when her uncles insist Nick must marry her because he has ruined her. Nicholas Eden will marry no woman even though he lusts after Reggie. So, forced into an engagement, he seduces her and then tries to get her to break their engagement. What a cad! But she won't do it, no matter how bad he treats her. She wants him and she has a reason to marry.

The classic cover
In real life, a philanderer like Nick would never be faithful after marriage. A perfect example is Richard Burton, who though he loved Elizabeth Taylor passionately every day of his life after he met her, couldn't be faithful. (It caused their two divorces.) I was reminded of them because Lindsey's description of Reggie is a young Elizabeth Taylor. But ah...this is romance, so the rogues and philanderers can reform and become faithful husbands!

This is no sweeping saga, nor any great story of sweeping passion, and yet, it’s an entertaining read and a good beginning to the popular Malory series.





Here's the series:

Love Only Once (Reggie and Nick)
Tender Rebel (Roslyn and Anthony)
Gentle Rogue (James and Georgina)
The Magic of You (Amy and Warren)
Say You Love Me (Kelsey and Derek)
The Present: The Malory Holiday Novel
A Loving Scoundrel (Danny and Jeremy, James' son)
Captive of My Desires (Gabrielle and Drew)
No Choice But Seduction (Boyd and Katey)
That Perfect Someone (Richard and Julia)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Review: Shirlee Busbee’s DECEIVE NOT MY HEART – A Case of Mistaken Identity and an Intriguing Love Story from old Louisiana—and a Bodice Ripper!

Originally published in 1984 and updated for the eBook version, this is a classic romance from a great historical romance author.

Set in New Orleans and environs beginning in 1799, this is the story of 16-year-old Leonie Saint-Andre, whose only living parent is a gambling grandfather who has impoverished their family’s plantation. Knowing he does not have long to live, her grandfather decides to take care of Leonie’s future by finding her a wealthy husband. Unfortunately, the man he picks, Morgan Slade, is a bitter man whose first wife married him for his money and then left him for another. And what Leonie’s grandfather does not know is that Morgan has a look alike cousin who, unbeknownst to Morgan, has assumed his identity in order to wed Leonie to steal her dowry.

Busbee has done her research and the history of Louisiana in the late 18th century is vividly portrayed. It was a time of plantations and the French creole families; and it was a time of dramatic change. Originally claimed by Spain, Louisiana was also claimed by France, and in 1803 most of it was acquired by America.

The plot has many twists and turns, and while the reader knows what is going on, the characters don’t. Lots of sexual tension and angst here as Leonie is deceived, yet she rises as a courageous heroine to triumph in the end. I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Review: Cordia Byers’ CALLISTA – Suspenseful Bodice Ripper set in 19th Century Georgia

Set in the mid 1800s aboard a ship and then in Georgia, this is the story of Callista Drummond and the English aristocrat, now sea captain, Corbin Wolfram Gainsbough (the latter name only showing up briefly).

When, to save their fortune, her aunt betroths her to the old and cruel Lord Condor, being the half Scot, half gypsy that she is, Callista decides to find her way back home to Scotland and to her father’s keep, Tantallon. Disguising herself as a lad, she gets lucky and is befriended by the first mate of the ship Peregrine captained by the stern Corbin Wolfram. She hires on as a cabin boy, but forgot to ask where they were sailing. Instead of Scotland, the ship is headed to Savannah, Georgia.

Corbin Wolfram is basically a bastard for most of the book, forcing a seduction, then dumping her on his first mate, then beating her, then forcing her to be his whore “for six months.” (No mention is made of what happens should she become pregnant). So, right there I’m thinking, to redeem himself, this guy is going to have to grovel big time. And so he will.

Of course, she could have left him at any time, but she “gave him her word” and it takes her a while to figure out one should not make promises to such a man. When she finally does leave him, she heads to the Georgia gold fields, led by a vision she had of her father digging in red earth in America.

Byers tells the tale well, as she always does. The story kept me turning pages late into the night. So, for all the negative things I said about the hero, it is a page-turner. Callista is, in most ways, a courageous and clever girl. You want her to succeed (and you want Corbin to drop into the sea, no matter he had a difficult childhood or his mother wasn’t perfect, or a certain Lord Condor destroyed his family—yes, there is that coincidence). If you don’t like it when the hero sleeps with other women, you’ll like it even less when the heroine sleeps with another man. Just know this one is a bit different.

The storms at sea are vividly portrayed and there are some wonderful secondary characters. All in all, if you like bodice rippers, this is a great one.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

New Review: Brenda Joyce’s DARK FIRES - Superb Victorian Bodice Ripper

This is another truly superb romance by Brenda Joyce.

Set in England in 1874-1876, it is the story of Nicholas Bragg, Lord Shelton, Earl of Dragmore, aka the Lord of Darkness (so called by all of London after the rumors he murdered his wife). He is an American, raised in wild Texas, with a mysterious past, who is living on his 25,000 acre estate outside of London. One day, delivered to his door is Jane Weston, the 17-year-old illegitimate daughter of an actress and the son of the Duke of Clarendon, his dead wife's grandfather. The girl is his ward, a ward he didn't know he had, a ward he doesn’t want.

Instantly attracted to the beautiful young blonde, and aware she is becoming infatuated with him, Nick decides if he's to resist her, he must take her to London and find her a husband. Of course that won't be easy as he is infamous, shunned by the ton and Jane was born on the wrong side of the blanket. Not to mention he doesn't really want her to wed.

Once in London, their attraction finds its finish and then everything goes to hell in a hand basket, so to speak. Ah, but the telling of it is just superb. I couldn't put it down.

This is the 4th in the Bragg series, but you can read it as a stand alone. There are references to Nick's past, which is a part of the earlier books, but you won't lose track or find yourself at a loss. Like a lot of people of mixed heritage, Nick is stronger for it...and more handsome. Though Jane was illegitimate, her parents loved each other and she is proud to be their daughter.

One of the secondary characters with only a small speaking part is priceless...Thomas the butler, who is there throughout the book. Unlike some romances, the conflict here comes across very naturally from the circumstances, very believable. It's a story of two people deeply in love but fighting it all the way.

I highly recommend this one!

Friday, September 5, 2014

New Review: Judith McNaught’s ALMOST HEAVEN – A Bodice Ripper Set in Regency London with a Hunk from Scotland...oh yes!

This is 3rd in McNaught's "Sequels Series" (ONCE AND ALWAYS, SOMETHING WONDERFUL and ALMOST HEAVEN). This one is a Regency era romance, though some of it takes place in Scotland—and the hero is a Scot!

It begins as 17-year-old Elizabeth Cameron, Countess of Havenhurst, is in her first season and makes some errors of judgment that, while demonstrating her independence and courage, set her back in the ton's eyes. Caught alone with the handsome rake, Ian Thornton, who isn't even a peer, she is ruined. To his credit, Ian, a known gambler, wants to marry her, but Elizabeth is too afraid of the perils of gambling that have made her a pauper, and so she rejects his noble offer. Instead, she valiantly holds onto the family estate, Havenhurst, using her ingenuity to provide for the few servants—for two long years. But in an effort to reduce his costs, her uncle decides to marry her off, to any of her former suitors who will take her. Through the selection process, Elizabeth encounters Ian Thornton once again. This time, however, Ian emerges as a very wealthy man and heir to the Duke of Stanhope, and he is very skeptical of Elizabeth.

McNaught does a superb job of demonstrating the sexual tension between Elizabeth and Ian. (He is a hunk we'd all love to be with in a remote hunting lodge in Scotland.) The dialog is witty and very funny at times; the characters are rich and interesting; and the action and sexual tension simmer.

There are a few twists and turns that while a bit improbable do not detract from the wonderful ending. A good read and I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Border Lord’s Bride: A Rich Historical & A Scottish Bodice Ripper

I note at the outset that Bertrice Small was honored this year by the Romance Writers of America with the Lifetime Achievement Award. And she wrote many bodice rippers, of which this was one.

While the book started a bit slow and contains more historical information and food descriptions than some might think necessary (though one meal description had my mouth watering), once I got into this romance, I found it addictive. Her writing style is unique, full of detailed descriptions of events, some repeated in various conversations and a fair amount of "head hopping" (giving many different perspectives and some in only a few lines). But here's the important point: when the story ended, I found myself wanting more.

THE BORDER LORD'S BRIDE tells the story of Ellen MacArthur, who was raised by her much loved grandsire. He has betrothed her to a McNabb and Ellen is content with his choice, but the MacArthurs, who live on Skye with the MacDonalds, are not happy. One in particular intends to take her for his bride, Ellen's grandsire notwithstanding. To protect her, she is sent to King James' court where she becomes the friend of Jamie Stewart and his aunt. Called home by her grandsire at 18, the king asks Duncan Armstrong, laird of Duffdour, to protect her on the trip home. When they arrive they find the MacArthur who wants her has killed both her grandsire and her betrothed. Through a series of events, Duffdour is required by the king to wed Ellen. Will they be able to find love and passion as events conspire to challenge their happiness?

If you love a romance that does not float on the surface of the historical background, and if you like to probe the depths of the characters' emotions, I think you will like this one.

This is the 2nd in the Border Chronicles series (see complete listing below), which tells the stories of the men and women who made the border between England and Scotland home in the 15th century. It was a fascinating time in England and Scotland's history and Small's writing reflects her deep research into the times. The books are 400+ pages and take a while to read but they are well worth your time.

So you have the whole Border Chronicles series, here it is in order:

-A Dangerous Love
-The Border Lord's Bride
-The Captive Heart
-The Border Lord and the Lady
-The Border Vixen
-Bond of Passion

Monday, September 1, 2014

New Review: Karen Robards’ ISLAND FLAME – Exciting Bodice Ripper with Pirates—very well done!

It’s bodice ripper month! Did you know some of the very best historical romances are bodice rippers? Yes, they are, as you’ll see from my best list I’ll post later this month.

You cannot beat Robards for an exciting read. And this one and its sequel SEA FIRE are bodice rippers, to be sure. Every now and then, an arrogant alpha male (in this case a sea captain) can be cathartic, reminding us that all historical romance heroes are not nice guys. This one certainly wasn’t. The heroine starts out as a 17-year-old innocent brat, but she quickly grows up and actually develops a very mature outlook. She may take longer than some to get there, but eventually, she sees the light.

Set in 1842, this is the story of Lady Catherine Aldley, whose father sent her on a military ship to London from Lisbon where he was an ambassador, never knowing it is a silver transport ship and bate for an American pirate named Jonathan Hale, who thinks nothing of ruining an innocent wellborn lady half his age to have his pleasure. Cathy may be young and innocent but she is not tame. When Captain Hale captures her and sets out to tame her in a most brutal way, he has no idea that he will become her victim.

Say what you will about the old romances that don’t reflect 21st century sensibilities, but I can tell you this: this story kept me reading hours past my bedtime and that, folks, is a well-told tale. The pacing is fast, the action never ceasing and the chemistry between the two is compelling. Great sexual tension.

Modern historical romance authors can learn much from Robards. She makes some masterful twists and turns, I must say. All believable, which counts for much in my book. However, there was definitely some Stockholm syndrome going on as Cathy came to see herself at fault (“she had brought her injuries on herself”), and the captain as heroic. Yes, he saved her from a band of nasty thieves and murderers in Cadiz, but she never would have been exposed to them in the first place if he hadn’t taken her captive.

I also thought Robards did a great job with the ship setting and the sailor/ship jargon, bringing to life the ship’s culture. You might take that for granted, but having done that work for my novel, Wind Raven, I know it required much work on her part. Her descriptions put you in the setting, trust me. If you love a good bodice ripper…this is a great one!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Walkers of Scotland


For all my followers, in case you are wondering, I’ll be traveling to the Western Highlands of Scotland during the first two weeks in September, seeing some spectacular sights as I research Scotland's past for some historical romances that I’ve a mind to write.

If you'd like to keep up with my travels and see my pictures, be sure and friend me on Facebook.

I'll be taking some trains, including this one at the Glenfinnan Viaduct:


While my blog posts will continue...and September is Bodice Ripper month, so you won't want to miss that!...I thought it was fitting I should do a post on my own name as regards the Scots.

So here is The Walker “clan” for you to enjoy!

From what I can tell, there is more than one belief on how the surname Walker came about. Some say it refers to the men who walked about the castle to watch for intruders or thieves. Others say Walker originates from Waulker, “son of the fuller or cloth maker,” and refers to those who walked on the wool that was cleaned and thicken by being soaked in water and trampled under foot. In any event, the name is widespread throughout Scotland. (It is the 21st most common name in Scotland.)

The Highland or Gaelic version of the name Walker is MacNucator and derives from "Mac an fhucadair" (son of the fuller of the cloth), of which the old Scots equivalent is Waulker. In modern times, the name is associated with both the Stewarts and the McGregors.


My mother once told me that we were “papists in Scotland and Protestants in Ireland.” I decided that meant we were rebels all around. (In the 17th century, the Walkers were fined for harboring fugitives of the outlawed Clan Gregor!)
 
Clansmen of the name followed the Stewarts of Appin in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745. The Appin Stewarts, known as “The Loyal Clan,” are a part of the West Highland branch of the royal surname Stewart. They are associated with Castle Stalker in Argyll. Their motto is Quihidder Wil Zie (Whither will ye? That is, what/which will you..choose…war or peace?) I'm reading a Scottish historical romance now, Lady of the Glen, that shows the Stewarts of Appin fighting alongside the MacDonalds at Killiecrankie.

Castle Stalker, Argyll


Prior to the majority of the MacNucator clan changing their name to Walker in the 18th century, the MacNucators appear to have been located in and around Knapdale, where historians have associate them with Clan Macmillan. They are also a sept of Stewart.

Loch Caille Bharr in Knapdale
Those who consider themselves to be members of the Clan Macmillan, use the emblems of kinship of that clan. (OK, so it's not a red based tartan!)



Walkers of note:

As far as I could ascertain, the earliest known Walkers to immigrate to America were John, Roger and Isabel Walker who immigrated to Virginia in 1623.

Patrick Nowcatter was Procurator Fiscal for Argyll in 1655, and Martine McNaucater held the same office in 1667.

In the 18th century, Helen Walker (d.1791) walked from Scotland to London to petition for the life of her sister who had been condemned to death for infanticide. Her story provided the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott's epic tale of Jeanie Deans in The Heart of Midlothian. A statue was erected in Kirkpatrick-Irongray, Kirkcudbrightshire by Sir Walter Scott in memory of Helen Walker upon whom he based his character.

Robert Walker (1755-1808) was born in Monkton, Ayrshire and became Minister of Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh.

James Walker (1770-1841) was born in Fraserburgh and became Minister of St Peter's Episcopalian Chapel, Edinburgh, and in 1830, the Bishop of Edinburgh. 

Sir James Walker (1863-1935) became Professor of Chemistry at Dundee University and worked on hydrolysis, ionization and amphoteric electrolysis. 

The Irish and English Walkers:

Walker is also an English name near the Scottish border. And Walkers throughout Ireland have been identified as non-linked families to the ones in Scotland and England. A Walker family from Ireland is probably from Sligo or Derry where they came from, two of the hardest hit areas during the famine.

So, now you know! Tell your friends whose surname is “Walker” they have an interesting heritage!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Reviews: Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series!


With all the interest in the new Outlander TV series (which, I must say, is quite wonderful and seems to be following the books closely), and my travel to Scotland in September, I thought it timely that I share my reviews of the books...well, at least as far as I have read (through book 5). So here they are!

OUTLANDER, book 1

I had known about the Outlander series by Gabaldon since I started reading Scottish historical romances, but I avoided this series because of the reviews that indicated the heroine was a married woman having a relationship with another man. But, once I began reading it, I quickly learned that is not what this story is about.

Claire Randall, a British Army nurse in WWII, was married for a week to her professor husband before the war. Upon being reunited at the war's end, they go on a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands where they were married. One afternoon she inadvertently falls through a crack in time at the standing stones and finds herself in 1743. There she meets Highlander Jamie Fraser and is required to marry him--and thus become a Scot--to save her life. And so she begins a new life, torn between two lives and two men.

We see 18th century Scotland through the eyes of a woman from the 20th century and that alone is worth the read. Often Gabaldon uses great humor in showing Claire's frustration with the 18th century way of life and the men of that time. Unique among romances, even Scottish historicals, it is told from the first person (that is, Claire is telling her own story).

The novel travels at a leisurely pace (850 pages allows the author to do that). I could have surmised the author is an ecologist (I also have a degree in ecology) since we are frequently watching the birds and the plants along the way (literally). But it is not slow so as to be boring. No, it is quite absorbing...a sweeping saga with a rich tapestry of characters woven carefully together with introspection and examination of people's hearts, minds and choices.

It is told with great detail in most respects (except that I did wish she'd given better and descriptions of some of the characters and reminded me what they looked like as the story developed).

In a carefully crafted view of the world and God, told from the perspective of a Franciscan monk in a French abbey, we finally have the author's perspective on why Claire might have been sent back in time to live another life, and that, too, was worth the reading. I highly recommend this romance.

DRAGONFLY in AMBER, book 2

I'm not giving away the plot when I tell you it begins 20 years after OUTLANDER ends, and Claire is now once again Mrs. Randall. It is clear that she and Jamie have been lost to each other for 20 years and Jamie's daughter, Brianna, born after Claire returned to the 20th century, is now a young woman and looks a lot like her father. The fact Jamie and Claire weren't together and had lost the best years of their lives to each other had me truly grieving from page one.

Jamie is now the "dragonfly in amber," preserved in Clarie's mind and heart as if frozen in time. After the beginning in 1968, the story goes into flashbacks (as Claire tells Brianna of her father and their love), showing us what happened when Claire and Jamie were last together in the years leading up to Culloden. But my heart knew where it was leading (since she gave it to us on page one) and that fairly depressed me the whole way through, I had so come to love the two. Still, it's an amazing tale and once I began reading book 3, I found some hope.

VOYAGER, book 3

This is the 3rd in the unique and wonderful Scottish historical (and time travel) series that grabs you by the throat and won't let you go. At over 1000 pages, this installment is an all day sucker of historical romance and well worth your time.

The saga of Claire and Jamie continues as Claire, who by 1968 has become an MD and is now chief of staff of a prominent Boston hospital, having discovered that Jamie did not die at Culloden in 1746, learns more about Jamie's hard life since they were forced apart 20 years earlier. She is assisted in her research in Scotland by Roger Wakefield, an Oxford scholar and a Scot who is attracted to Claire's beautiful daughter, Brianna, who is the physical image of her father, Jamie. As the three conduct their research into the past, we become a part of Jamie's life during the years he was not with Claire. As life throws him one difficult challenge after another (living as an outlaw in a cave, prison, a servant in a rich man's house, manipulation and abuse by others), he remains a man of honor and integrity with a heart to serve and provide for those he loves, all the while longing for his lost love and the child she bore him he has never seen.

Claire longs to rejoin Jamie in the past, though she knows another passage through the standing stones to go back 200 years in time carries great risk. It is a risk she is willing to take because he is her heart.

This is a well-told tale of a deep love that spans centuries and of the two lives woven into the tapestry of Scotland's history. It is a rare romance that sees the love between the same two people flourish in each book...it is a tribute to Gabaldon's outstanding talent as a storyteller, one who sees into the hearts of people, that she can make it captivating. You want Jamie and Claire's love to go on forever.

This book had me both laughing out loud and crying tears as it ripped at my own heart. I highly recommend it.

DRUMS OF AUTUMN, book 4

I did not agree with those who said this is a "weak link" in the Outlander series or that it is not as good as the first ones. I found this 4th book (another "all day sucker" at over 1000 pages), to be a richly woven tale with great depth and lots of twists and turns as the story moves to 18th century America, several years before the Revolutionary War.

And this one not only continues the great love between Jamie and Claire, but adds the story of their daughter Brianna and her love Roger. I did find the latter two to be a bit hard to grasp, but unlike others, I did not think Roger was too much like Jamie. Perhaps it is just that we haven't yet seen enough of Brianna and Roger to feel like we truly understand them.

Gabaldon does an extraordinary job of depicting life among the Indians and the slaves and the hardships the white settlers faced, particularly in the backcountry of North Carolina where the Frasers lived.

There are wonderful secondary characters that I came to love and expect to see in the remaining volumes. The story of Jamie's nephew, Ian, becomes one of heart-rending interest and likely reflects what may have happened to some in that time. Lord John Grey is still in the picture as the friendship with Jamie continues.

Once again, Gabaldon uses the "time travel" aspect of Claire's and Brianna's (and Roger's) being 20th century people to show what a change in lifestyle it would be for us to go back and live in that time.

Finally, to see all the Scots in America after losing their homeland to England's abuses post Culloden was encouraging, even though they had lost family and clan roots at the hands of the cruel English. It tugged at my heart. Still, as this story drives home, England's loss was America's gain.

THE FIERY CROSS, book 5

I've read the other reviews and think those that are critical miss the mark. You must keep in mind that this is a sweeping saga that weaves a complex comprising a rich tapestry of characters, history and believable plots and with details and side trails that require space--in this case 1400+ pages. Her writing in this one is every bit as good as the first one, though this one does move more slowly. Yes, she could have cut it down, but then we might not feel as if we'd lived it.

In this 5th book, the tale meanders a bit and there were times I grew a bit exasperated with Roger's adventures that always seemed to go awry (does the man do nothing right?). Still, I was not bored. I also felt my heart moved as Jamie continues to love Claire with words of deep caring that more than make up for the slow passages that describe in gruesome detail medicine in the 18th century.

This one takes place entirely in the New World, the colony of North Carolina in particular. Roger and Bree have joined Jamie and Claire with their son, little Jemmy. As they grow closer to the Revolutionary War they all know is coming, they get caught up in the discontent between the settlers who chaff at the Crown's rule and the British whose troops still keep the law. Jamie is a colonel in the Governor's militia and, once again, leads men to battle, though he knows he will one day have to switch sides to the colonists. His settlement on the Ridge grows, as a host of interesting characters join them, and more is learned about other time travelers who have come through the portal in the stones.

We don't see much of Fergus, which is too bad as he's a wonderful character, but we do see a lot of his wife, Marsali and their charming son, Germain. And more is heard from Ian who became a Mohawk.

There are wonderful lines, like Jamie telling Claire, "God has made me what I am. He has given me the duty--and I must do it, whatever the cost." And I loved the verses of song she included so naturally. It's definitely worth the read!


I'd love to hear from my followers as to whether you've read the series, or part of it, and what you most enjoyed and what drove you nuts!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Review: Victoria Holt’s ON THE NIGHT OF THE SEVENTH MOON – Love and Mystery in the Black Forest!

Set in Germany and England from 1859 to 1870 (with an end note in 1901), this tells the story of Helena Trant whose parents were so much in love they had little time for her. Still, hers was a happy childhood among books in Oxford where her father had a bookstore. When she was old enough, her parents sent her to Germany near the Black Forest to a convent school where her mother had been educated.

Helena loves the forest and the fairy tales surrounding it. She hears of the legend of the night of the seventh moon “when mischief is abroad and is routed with the coming of dawn.” On one night, she gets lost in the mist of the forest and is rescued by a man who takes her to his hunting lodge. She taken with him that she might have allowed him to have his way with her but for the intervention of a housekeeper who took measures to preserve Helena’s virtue. But Helena never forgot the man even though she did not know his name.

Years later, she returns to Germany and on another night of the seventh moon Helena meets and marries her German at his hunting lodge, but then she wakes from her idyllic honeymoon to discover she has been drugged by a physician who tells her she has escaped a horror that befell her in the forest. Helena lives in a fog of dreams and wonders where truth is.

I have to say that I love Holt’s writing, and this story sucked me in immediately. It is labeled as a romantic suspense, but I didn’t see it containing any more suspense than many historical romances. But it does have a Gothic feel and there is a mystery. Holt had me wondering what had really happened. She did an excellent job of that. The book is a bit slow in the middle, and the hero and heroine are separated for years. In that interim, I found passages that seemed repetitive, but the ending is a great one. As always, Holt is a master storyteller and creates wonderfully vivid characters. I recommend it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Review: Bertrice Small’s BIANCA – Intriguing Love Story from Florence and the Black Sea in the 15th century!

Set in Florence and the area around the Black Sea, beginning in 1474, this is the story of Bianca, oldest daughter of Giovanni Pietro d’Angelo, a Florentine silk merchant. When his son’s indiscretion threatens to ruin the family, Giovanni is blackmailed into giving Bianca in marriage to the debauched blackguard Sebastiano Rovere. Rovere treats his delicate new bride abysmally and she loathes and fears him.

Her mother, appalled at what has befallen her daughter, helps Bianca flee to a seaside villa where she meets Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror. Two years later, Bianca’s husband is murdered (I couldn’t have been happier), leaving her free to find love with Amir. She wants no husband and would have him for her lover, but neither Amir (who wants her for his 3rd wife) nor her mother (who considers him an infidel) accepts that decision.

Ms. Small never holds back on the evil of others, so the beginning of the book shows in vivid terms the perversions of Rovere. But once we are at the sea cliff villa, beauty is restored. Amir is a gallant, romantic man who loves Bianca. And Bianca has changed from the docile, obedient daughter to a strong woman bent on her own destiny.

It’s a fascinating look at the culture of the day in both Florence and in the world of the merchants of the Black Sea. A good start to a new series for Ms. Small.


The Silk Merchant’s Daughters series thus far:

BIANCA
FRANCESCA
LUCIANNA

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Review: Elizabeth Thornton’s VELVET IS THE NIGHT – Love Amidst the French Revolution!

Set in France in 1794, during the French Revolution, this is the story of beautiful Claire Deveraux, the bastard child of a prominent American who fell in love with her mother on a trip to France, though he already had a wife and children. Raised by her uncle Claire loves his family as her own. When they are threatened with the guillotine, she agrees to a bargain with the diabolical new commissioner in Rouen, Phillipe Dehet, the protégé of Robespierre: she will become Phillipe’s mistress in exchange for her family’s safe transport out of France.

Unbeknownst to innocent Claire, Phillipe has a look-alike half brother, Adam Dillon, who though raised in France, is now an American patriot and the most sought after bachelor in New York. Adam is sent to France by none other than Claire’s real father to engage in a daring escapade to take the place of Phillipe and provide the nobles fleeing France a path to safety. Claire’s natural father tells Adam to do all he can to protect his daughter, Claire Deveraux, if he finds her.

When he arrives in Rouen where Phillipe has been appointed commissioner, Adam finds Claire waiting in his bedroom, but under an assumed last name. He has no idea the young woman whose beauty he cannot resist is the woman he was asked to protect.

This is a great story. Thornton has done much research to provide us with a vivid picture of what was going on in France at the time, including the fear that had spread throughout the population. And this is a wonderful romance surrounded by deception, treachery and misunderstanding that keep Adam and Claire apart. Fast-paced and full of action, it kept me reading late into the night. I recommend it!

This is a part of the Devereux Family trilogy but can be read as a stand alone:

Tender the Storm
Velvet is the Night
Cherished September