Monday, October 31, 2011

Favorite Author: Kathleen Givens - Sweeping Scottish Sagas You Will Not Forget!

RITA Award winner, Kathleen Givens, a contemporary and friend of Marsha Canham (another favorite author), was a writer of Scottish/Highlands historicals. Thoroughly researched and meticulously set forth in absorbing stories, she was a classic writer of romance. If you love Scottish history or Highlander romance, you have probably discovered her already. She died suddenly after authoring only six novels but we have those as her legacy to enjoy. You must love the “historical” part of historical romance to be as enthralled by these as I was, but if you are, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND them. The love stories will tear at your heart.

Read them in this order:

The first two are set in 13th century Scotland:

·      On a Highland Shore (2007)
·      Rivals for the Crown (2008)

These next two follow the same family generations later and are set in 18th century England and Scotland:

·      Kilgannon (1999)
·      Wild Rose of Kilgannon (1999)

The next two are not related to her first four books. Set in the late 17th century in Scotland and England in the time of William and Mary, they tell the stories of the MacCurrie twins, Jamie and Neil, who live at Torridon on the Northwestern shore of Scotland. 'The Legend' introduces the Highland prophecy that bound the MacCurrie men to battle, and the fiery women they loved.

·      The Legend (2002)
·      The Destiny (2003)

New Review: Kathleen Givens’ ON A HIGHLAND SHORE – Enthralling Scottish Love Story

This is the story of Margaret MacDonald and Gannon MacMagnus who find love from misfortune and fate that has changed the paths their lives were to take. It is set in 13th century Scotland.

In both this book and its sequel, Rivals for the Crown, Kathleen Givens does a superb job of weaving English and Scottish history into an epic romance and a tale of Scottish Highlander families swept up in the great themes of Scotland's history. I grew to love these men and women and felt like they could have easily been real people--people who experienced loves as deep as theirs, challenges as demanding, losses as heartrending. Her writing is so believable. I often found myself reading these tales late into the night. These are not formula romance books like so many today, but sweeping historical novels well worth the read. You won't be disappointed. There are fewer love scenes than in some romances but the ones that are there are tender and well worth the wait. The sexual tension she creates fits the story well and is consistent with the characters. When I finished the two books I mourned the ending of the stories and craved more from her.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Review: Elizabeth Hoyt’s TO BEGUILE A BEAST in the Legend of the Four Soldiers series - A Scottish beast to Love!


Set in Scotland and London in 1765, this is the story of Helen Fitzwilliam, mistress of the Duke of Lister and Lord Vale’s friend and fellow comrade in arms in the Colonies, Sir Alistair Munroe. When Munroe was tortured by the Wyandot Indians, allies of the French, after their capture at Spinner’s Falls, he lost an eye and was so scarred in the process now women scream when they see him. So he has become a recluse living in his castle in Scotland where he pursues his career studying animals and plants. Of course, he’s a celebrated naturalist, knighted for his first book by King George. Meanwhile, Helen has run away from the Duke of Lister who doesn’t love her and has never acknowledged the two children of hers he has fathered. Lady Vale helps her escape to Scotland where she appears on Alistair’s doorstep declaring she is Helen Halifax, his new housekeeper. Each has a past they must overcome to find love and a future.

As with the other books in this series, each chapter begins with an excerpt from a fairy tale, in this case the story of a soldier named “Truth Teller” who saves a princess held captive and turned into a beast by a sorcerer in a mythical kingdom. I thought that was clever and added dimension to the romance.

Lord Vale and Sir Alistair continue to search for the traitor who betrayed the English to the French at Spinner’s Falls, but not much is gained in that hunt with this story. This is all about the tortured soul of Sir Alistair and how a former mistress, a woman who is beautiful inside and out, though not at all respectable, beguiles him. The secondary characters, mostly her two children, are charming. Except for the castle’s location, there isn’t much Scottish about this story. Still I enjoyed it and recommend this one.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Review: Paula Quinn’s TAMED BY A HIGHLANDER - Another Great Romance in the Children of the Mist Series!

Tamed by the Highlander is the third in the Children of the Mist series and the fifth in Quinn's Highlander romances that include the first two MacGregor/Grant romances (see full list below). It's a good one and continues the romances of the children of Callum MacGregor and his friend, Graham Grant.

This one carries us into the reign of King James II, who at age 51 in 1685, ascended to the throne of England upon the death of his brother, Charles I. Connor Grant, son of Graham Grant (A Highlander Never Surrenders), faithfully served King Charles for seven years and is now a Captain in the army of the new Catholic King James. The girl Connor loved and left back home in the Highlands, Mairi MacGregor (the girl who told him she loved him when she was 6 and he was 9), considered his devotion to an English king a betrayal and refused to join him when he asked her. For seven long years, the two have been separated, each believing the other at fault. Connor has racked up his victories on the battlefield and in the bedroom, the latter much to Mairi's chagrin. Now they are reunited in the court of King James where Mairi has come for information on the Covenantors. The love they still feel will be revealed amidst treachery surrounding the new king. Already there is a cloud over the throne cast by the Protestants and William of Orange.

As always, Quinn's story is true to history and weaves the characters' lives into the events that affected the times. Unlike some "historical" romance, Quinn actually gives you real history, not just a general background setting. Her characters are well developed and believable. Connor is a wonderful Highlander, a warrior son of a warrior, who has seen the wisdom of serving the English king, even though his heart is still in the Highlands. Mairi comes across as a stubborn young woman bent on having her way and fighting for a cause (Catholic Scotland), above the love of a good man. At times it was hard to sympathize with her but she comes out ok in the end.

If you aren't familiar with the history of James II's reign, or the Catholic-Protestant struggle, I recommend taking a look at some online research before reading the book or you might be left wondering what are Covenantors (Scottish Presbyterians) and Cameronians (radical Presbyterians) and why they were such a concern of Mairi's.

I recommend this one and all of Quinn's Highlander romances (full list below). The first one, Laird of the Mist, is a particular favorite of mine.

The MacGregor Series:

Laird of the Mist (Callum MacGregor and Kate Campbell)
A Highlander Never Surrenders (Graham Grant and Claire Stuart)

Children of the Mist Series:

Ravished by a Highlander (Robert MacGregor and Davina Montgomery)
Seduced by a Highlander (Tristan MacGregor and Isobel Fergusson)
Tamed by a Highlander (Mairi MacGregor, Connor Grant)
Conquered by a Highlander (due out Summer 2012 - Colin MacGregor and Gillian ...)

Conquered by a Highlander, the next one in the series, begins 3 years later. It's the romance of Mairi's brother, Colin MacGregor, who is featured in Tamed by a Highlander as a loyal brother and able young warrior just joining King James' army. As the historical events around King James grow ever more tumultuous, it should be an interesting tale.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Review: Meljean Brook’s THE IRON DUKE – Swashbuckling Steampunk Romance, A Mystery Wrapped in a Love Affair in a New World, OH YES!

If you haven't read Steampunk (historical science fiction), particularly the romance novels within the genre, let me warn you...they can be quite different. This first installment in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series brings us a whole new complicated world where history is rewritten. Think of it as Victorian romance on Planet X or aliens and the Victorian world. Technology is a key element, technology developed in the mind of the author that adds a whole new dimension to the story.

In this case, the Mongol Horde took over the world 200 + years ago and changed it forever, using nanotechnology "bugs" to control people and their emotions, even producing sexual "Frenzies" that enabled them to rape any woman when it suited their debauchery, even women in the nobility. Such a woman is our heroine's mother and that is why Lady Wilhelmina Wentworth ("Mina") will never be able to escape the mark of the Horde. Mina, grown up and now a Detective Inspector, and a very smart one indeed, is half Horde and discriminated against as a result. In pursuing the mystery of a body dropped onto the estate of the Iron Duke Rhys Trahaearn, she comes face to face with this former pirate captain who won back England from the Horde and became the nation's hero. Rhys's attraction for Mina is immediate and possessive. He intends to have the Inspector. But as they work together to solve the mystery of the dead man, they encounter a treacherous organization called the Black Guard.

The world that Brook has created includes airships, zombies, nanotechnology, interesting secondary characters, both outrageous and charming, and a complicated heroine and hero. Both the hero and heroine are very strong people with their own stubborn views of the world they live in. Each must change to find love. I do agree that Rhys was, at times, confusing. At the beginning he is the strong, silent but demanding type; then he sort of mutates into this swearing caring guy. The change was a bit jarring. But even as a caring guy he is oblivious to the status a marriage to him would give Mina. He wants to help her but he doesn't think of that? Then, too, their relationship was all about the physical (explicitly so), which made it difficult to see any real love emerging until the end. I think that could have been done better.

It's an absorbing story, one that will keep your brain alert. She delivers a great ending to this unique romance. I recommend it, but only if you are up for an adventure.

Brook does an excellent job of doling out the details of the world she has created and the technology that goes with it. With all the new terminology, I longed for a glossary. Alas, there was none. So, contacted Meljean and asked for one. Here is what she sent me:


The Horde: The current government/rule for most of Asia, Europe, and Africa. It began as the Mongol Horde taking over Europe and Africa, but has evolved since then.

Nanoagents or "bugs": The tiny machines that live in the people's blood and can control them through radio signals. It also gives them greater strength, greater healing ability -- or, if a different kind of 'bug', create a zombie infection.

Buggers: The English people who are infected by the bugs and lived under the Horde occupation in England.

Bounders: When the Horde took over Europe hundreds of years before, some British people fled to the New World with the rest of Europe. Now that the Horde has been thrown out of England, many of those Brits are returning to England. The buggers call these returning Brits "bounders."

The Libere: Africans who fled to the New World, and have since rebelled against the French who were using them as indentured servants.

To this list, I was tempted to add a few more, such as the Black Guard, but Meljean thought it best for you to pick those up in the book as you read along. Some day there will no doubt be a guide with all the new terms defined!

For all of you who are fans of this one, the second in the series, HEART OF STEEL, is due out November 1. The next book is foreshadowed in this one with the introduction of the wonderful characters Yasmeen (Lady Corsair) and Archimedes Fox.

What is Steampunk?

Steampunk is historical science fiction. It doesn’t have to be romance, but the case of THE IRON DUKE, reviewed in today's blog, it is. Think of it as historical romance with a twist, where both the culture and technology are different than the era. The advanced technology is usually steam-based (think steam engines and locomotives), and can be combined with various forms of Victorian-era technology and science; airships and clockwork-powered automatons are common. The machines can be small, like singing mechanical birds, or include giant robots. In the case of Meljean Brook’s romance, the technology includes “nano” size—down to individual atoms.

Steampunk takes you back 200 years and speculates what the Victorian era might look like if science and technology in the Regency period advanced in a different manner.

My earliest exposure to Steampunk romance, really a precursor to today’s books, was Penelope Williamson’s HEARTS BEGUILED, where the hero was a scientist working on a fuel for his airship in the 18th century. It was a good story, too, and for more traditional historical romance fans, it might be the place to begin.

Monday, October 24, 2011

One of my Favorite Authors: Kresley Cole – Superb Historicals!

Kresley Cole is well known to lovers of paranormal romance because of her highly successful Immortals After Dark series (see my review of the first in that series posted today), but did you know she began writing historicals? And what historicals they are! All keepers. So, she is this week’s favorite writer of historical romances.

High Seas Romances:

Her first book was THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES, a high seas romance, and it’s one I have read and re-read. Raised aboard her father’s ship, Nicole Lassiter has never encountered an obstacle she couldn’t overcome, until she meets Captain Derek Sutherland. Each has a secret to hide from the other when he mistakes her for a tavern whore. Nicole vows to have her revenge on his stolen kisses by helping her father beat Sutherland in the Great Circle Race from England to Australia. When Sutherland inadvertently prevents her father from sailing, she decides to sail on her own, and takes to the high seas with her father’s ship. But a storm leads to Sutherland’s having to save her. On board his ship, she is treated as a prisoner because he believes she sabotaged his ship before the race began. It’s a great story with a wonderful twist I didn’t see at the end.

The sequel, THE PRICE OF PLEASURE, tells us the story of Derek’s brother, Captain Grant Sutherland, who sails to Oceania on a mission to locate a missing English girl, Victoria Dearbourne, lost at sea a decade earlier. And, when he finds her, he finds a woman he cannot resist. This one includes a stop at the Cape and a wonderful voyage home to England.

The MacCarrick Brothers Scottish Trilogy:

I fell in love with the MacCarrick brothers and couldn’t put these books down. I read one a day for three days, and then promptly re-read them. They are simply absorbing. Set in the mid 19th century, in the Victorian era, they tell of a family of three brothers who live under a 500-year old curse that promises death if any marry. Of course, the curse was not all readable so they don’t know the whole of it...

Unlike some romance authors, Cole really does her homework on the historical setting--it feels authentic--and she makes you fall in love with Scotland and it's men. She seems to like stories involving three brothers (in her paranormal series there are the Wroth vampires, the MacRieve brothers, etc.), which works well as she weaves her tales. These three Scottish brothers are sexy and strong and love their women with a passion that is compelling. They will draw you in, I promise. Here’s the list:


New Review: Kresley Cole’s Paranormal, 1st in the Immortals After Dark Series: A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER – A Drool-Worthy Highlander Lykae King!

Although this book has been out for some time, I purposely feature it because it was the first in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series—and it is one of my all time favorite paranormal romance series. If you are a fan of Highlander romances and have not waded into the paranormal genre of romance, this is the book for you. Who wouldn’t love a Highlander hunk for a hero, especially when he is a 900-year-old Lykae king?

After enduring years of torture from the vampire horde, Lachlain MacRieve, leader of the Lykae Clan, is enraged to find the predestined mate he's waited hundreds of years for is one of their enemies—a vampire. Emmaline is a small, ethereal half Valkyrie/half vampire, who has never drunk blood from a body and her innocence soon begins to soothe the fury burning within Lachlain.

With this series, Cole has created a world of wonderfully rich immortal characters (including vampires, Valkyries, demons and werewolves)--all with noble sides that win you to them. This is the story of the Were King, a Lykae, and his love...quite a different woman than he expected. To see him adapt to his fated mate is the story of how love changes us.

The action is great, the plot interesting and the love story heartrending. The Valkyries are women you want to hang out with; their dialog is so funny I found myself laughing out loud and wishing I was there with them. (Don't you paint your toes different colors for your mood?) But the romance is what won's so believable and so well done it's addictive. And, yes, I've read it three times already. You find yourself lost in the characters' lives and wishing for a love only the Wroth brothers (noble vampires) or the werewolf king and his brethren can provide. Do not miss this one!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Review: Heather Graham’s DEVIL'S MISTRESS: Witch Trials, a Hunk to Die For and True Love!

This is another page-turner from Heather Graham, award-winning author of over 100 romance novels--and it's just been re-released. Set in the 17th century Scotland, this is the story of Brianna McCardle, a dark-haired blue-eyed beauty who is falsely accused of being a witch. She is saved only by pretending to be a whore sent to the Welsh sea captain, Lord Treveryan for the night. Treveryan is captain of the Sea Hawk, working for the king, and a hunk to die for. Brianna loses her innocence to him but he loses his heart to her. He sweeps her away on his ship to keep her from the witch hunters but then he decides he can't let her go. But neither will he marry her. Raised by Puritans, Brianna cannot accept the role of his mistress so she flees to America with her cousin who marries her when she is discovered to be with child.

This story is all about what happens when life gets in the way of true love. You will feel the pain of love denied, love delayed and love misunderstood--then the joy of love regained. And it all takes place in a time when witch hunts abounded in Britain as well as Salem, Massachusetts.

Graham does a wonderful job of weaving in the history, developing the characters and including believable sexual tension between the hero and heroine. I recommend this one!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Review: Emma Jensen’s Entwined – Wonderful 1st in Regency Series!

This is the first in a historical trilogy that involves spies for England during the wars on the Continent in the Regency period, though most of it takes place in the British Isles. There were 10 spies to begin with ("the Ten"). Some were nobility.

ENTWINED begins in 1810 in Lisbon, as Nathan Paget, Viscount Oriel, one of the Ten, is discussing the situation in Europe with his close friend Gabriel Loudon, Lord Rievaulx, also a member of the Ten. Nathan is preparing to return to England the next day to wed a woman they both wanted. But the next morning, they are attacked.
As he is losing consciousness, Nathan sees Rievaulx hit in the chest, and believes him dead. A year later, in 1811, Nathan has returned to his country home in Hertfordshire alone, his fiancé having changed her mind. He carries on one-way conversations with his dead friend, Gabriel, and still suffers from a sword wound to his thigh as he attempts to live a normal, if secluded, life. Then his former superior arrives to tell him someone is killing the Ten one by one. Supposedly, five are now dead. His supervisor asks Nathan for help, urging him to return to London.

Meanwhile, a family of Scots from the Isle of Skye has moved onto Nathan's lands. He hires the father, James MacLeod, to be his secretary. Over the next 6 months, Nathan learns all about MacLeod's five children, including the oldest, 25-year-old intelligent, plain Isobel, who the father credits with keeping the family together. When James MacLeod steals a bag of gold coins from Nathan and Isobel tries to return it, Nathan meets the honest, candid and observant young woman. She realizes what no one else has: Nathan is almost completely blind. (It wasn't only his leg that was injured; he took a hit to the head.) Nathan decides he will allow Isobel's father to go free and provide for Isobel's family if only he can have one thing--her. He wants more than a secretary, however.

The hero is a wonderful combination of gentleman warrior and a brooding, wounded, aristocratic beast. Noble and kind of heart, you can't help but love Nathan for loving Isobel's character, which is courageous, honest and giving. There is something wildly attractive about a man who wants a woman from the first time he meets her and then continues to always believe the best about her. Isn't that what we all want? The heroine, Isobel, is the caretaker for her family, dragging them out of one predicament or another. There isn't anything she won't do for them. And Nathan knows it. When offered the choice between continued poverty for them and perhaps jail for her father, and serving the strange Viscount Oriel, she chooses the latter.

Jensen writes very well with witty, often funny dialog, a great plot and well developed characters. This fascinating story moves along at a good clip. I wasn't half way through it when I was looking online for the rest in what I was sure had to be a series. There are two more: FALLEN and MOONLIT, both written years after ENTWINED, and each about another member of the Ten.

I have read all three and can recommend them without reservation. I think you'll like them as much as I did.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Review: Michele Sinclair’s TEMPTING THE HIGHLANDER – disappointing installment in an otherwise enjoyable series.

While I have read the others in Sinclair’s McTiernay Brothers Highlander series and enjoyed them, this 4th one is disappointing.

Set in early 14th century Scotland (1310), the story involves twin sisters, age 21, who have avoided marriage (if you can believe it) until now because their father, the clan laird, can't seem to control them. They are spoiled, over indulged and, in some cases, ignorant of what it takes to run a clan/castle. (All of that seemed to border on fantasy.) In a set of circumstances that threaten both clans, the McTiernay (fraternal) twins, Crevan and Craig, become engaged (betrothed should have been used, I think) to the twins, Raelynd and Meriel Schellden. Raelynd is engaged to Craig, both the eldest, since Raelynd’s husband would become laird of the Schellden clan. But Craig, though the oldest McTiernay twin, doesn't want to be laird of anything. They are all thinking it doesn't really matter since the engagement is only pretend as a ruse to defeat a cousin's claim to the lairdship. And, of course, Raelynd will come to like Crevan and Meriel likes Craig.

Sinclair writes well enough, but this story just didn't capture me. I know I'm going to sound negative but in this case, it is warranted. First, it was all so predictable. I knew from the beginning what was going to happen. Then, there were things that just weren’t believable. The two spoiled twins were supposed to become wonderful young women after a month with the McTiernay clan. It didn't work for me. The long passages describing their learning the ropes of what it takes to run a castle were boring. The hero and heroine didn't charm me either. Raelynd, came across as a shrew; Crevan came across as critical and judgmental--oh yeah, and selfish. I didn't like them. In fact, there was a whole slew of unlikable characters in this one (I haven't even mentioned the cousin...). Maybe it was just the way they behaved, but the twins seemed quite young. When the servant told Laurel that Raelynd and Crevan loved each other, I didn't buy it. I will say that it picked up after about page 270, though the ending was never in doubt. Overall, I found this installment in the series too easy to put down.

WHAT I FOUND HARD TO ACCEPT: (1) daughters of a laird in the 14th century allowed to reject all suitors until they are 21 (and even then, they were only pretending to be engaged); (2) a leader of Highlander fighting men who doesn't want to be laird of his clan; (3) taking the two girls back to the McTiernay castle and keeping them there for a month wouldn't "ruin" them if they failed to wed the McTiernay twins; (4) a Highlander clan with an English surname; and (4) a hot-blooded Highlander who took great liberties with a young woman in his care, but stopped short of making love to her, though she would have been willing, because he thought she should marry someone better (please). And then, after having her, was still willing to let her go to another. Doesn't sound like a Highlander to me.

For one of Sinclair’s historical romances I did like, see THE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT. It was very well done—a great one for the holiday season, too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Review: Lisa Jackson’s Enchantress: Captivating Welsh Medieval Romance!

This was my first by Lisa Jackson but it won't be my last. Her writing is superb, her feel for the medieval period is genuine, her plot is interesting and the characters engaging. ENCHANTRESS captured me from the beginning. It's the first in a medieval trilogy that takes place in Wales. Jackson weaves in myth and legends into her story while still retaining the fundamental belief the characters have in the God of heaven, so as to capture the feel of another time and place where people were influenced by superstition and beliefs in forces of nature even as they believed in the one God. They are simply wonderful stories. All are well written. I recommend you read them in order as they are related and characters in the first show up in the last (see list below).

Set in late 13th century Wales, ENCHANTRESS is the story of independent, headstrong Morgana of Wenlock, who has the gift of sight and visions she inherited from her grandmother. With her gift she has helped others, finding lost souls and even saving some from death. Now she will be called upon to help the handsome widower Baron Garrick Maginnis of Castle Abergwynn find his missing son. But Morgana dreads this "lord of the north" because she's seen a vision of such a lord bringing death. When the Baron comes to collect her and she is caught disobeying her father, her sire banishes her from Wenlock and gives her to the Baron (her father's liege lord), with the freedom to choose whom she will wed. Miserable, Morgana leaves her home vowing to return. But the adventure is only beginning for this wonderful girl. There's treachery at Abergwynn and the man who Garrick would give Morgana to--his cousin and a senior knight--is a man Morgana dreads.

You won't regret reading this one. It's a well told, captivating romance, a tale of love between the headstrong, noble girl and the bitter lord desperate to save his son even as greed and treachery swirl around them. I highly recommend it

The Welsh trilogy:


Monday, October 17, 2011

One of the “Best of the Best” Romance Authors: Marsha Canham

If I were to be asked who are my all time favorite authors (and I have been asked), in the handful of names that immediately come to mind would be Marsha Canham. The author of 16 historical romances—ALL wonderful, ALL worth 5 stars or more—is it any wonder that she has earned Romantic Times’ Lifetime Achievement Award? After a seven-year hiatus to care for her grandchildren, I am happy to say she is writing again (yeah!)

Canham told me she did 28 years of research for her historical novels, and when you read them, it is not hard to believe. She is true to the period of the story, and the variety in her settings is amazing. She captures the nuances of accent in her dialog, which is very difficult to do and most don’t even try. Her love scenes are well scripted and fit precisely into the relationship, unlike some authors who drag the same scene into every book. I just can’t say enough good things about Marsha’s work…I just love her.

She is the MASTER of high seas historical romance and has one of the best Scottish/Highland historical trilogies out there (she considers that trilogy her best work). 

I've listed her historical novels below. Note that there are minor differences between her published books and her new e-books by the same titles as she has updated the latter. In one case, noted below, the difference is substantial. She deserves your patronage as one of the “best of the best.”

Scottish/Highland trilogy:

·      The Pride of Lions (1988)
·      Blood of Roses (1989)
·      Midnight Honor (2001)

Pirate Wolf trilogy:

·      Across a Moonlit Sea (1996)
·      The Iron Rose (2003)
·      The Following Sea (NEW and coming soon as an e-book)

Robin Hood trilogy:

·      Through a Dark Mist (1991)
·      The Shadow of Midnight (1994)
·      The Last Arrow (1997)

Others by her I love:

·      Bound by the Heart (1984a high seas romance) [Note: The book and new e-versions of this sea adventure are quite different. In each case, however, I gave her 5 stars. The e-book lacks the rape scene and has a few other changes.]
·      The Wind and the Sea (1986 – high seas romance)
·      Pale Moon Rider (1998 - highwayman adventure)
·      Swept Away (1999 - Regency)
·      Under the Desert Moon (1992 - western historical)
·      Straight From the Heart (1995 - Civil War historical)
·      My Forever Love (2004 - medieval) coming soon as an e-book, titled The Dragon Tree
·      China Rose (1984, her first book)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Review: Betina Krahn's The Last Bachelor - Victorian Romance at its Best!

Betina Krahn has a winner here. It is so well written, it could serve as a model for the writers of romance. She is fast becoming a favorite author of mine with her detailed, well-crafted stories with rich and often humorous dialog. This one is yet another worthy installment. And, at 500+ pages, she gives you your money's worth, taking time to develop what other authors would give short shrift to.

Set in London in 1882, a beautiful young widow, Lady Antonia Paxton, occupies her time with saving widows and trapping gentlemen into marrying them by using their own perfidy against them. When a bachelor seeks to take a young widow's virtue--albeit a woman he's ostensibly been courting--Antonia follows them and, interrupting, forces the man to do the gentlemanly thing and marry the girl. With 13 marriages to her credit, the men of White's club in London become concerned. They decide they must see the Dragon Lady of Matrimonia brought down, and what better man to do it than Remington Carr, Lord Landon? A confirmed bachelor, handsome as Lucifer, who advocates the vote for women and sending "surplus women" off to work to earn their keep, he is antimarriage. Antonia, on the other hand, believes marriage a noble state and the salvation of many a widow. She offers Remington a wager...two weeks of women's work to change his mind about a woman's place. And if his mind isn't changed, she will do two weeks of a man's work. He accepts the wager thinking to seduce her, but Antonia has her own plans.

Krahn had me laughing out loud when Remington put on a corset (after all, how could he do work as a woman does without having to bear the restrictive garment?). You will be amazed at the history contained in this seemingly light romance. It isn't really light at all. It's a meaningful tale of what widows suffered in Victorian times, when they were raised to be wives and mothers but were left bereft with no way to earn income. Remington is an intelligent rake you will come to love and Antonia is a woman we would all want to know...a woman with a kind heart and a good mind who crafts devious plans to prove the damn men wrong. Even Queen Victoria supports her. Remington and Antonia are well matched and in an ironic twist will end up advocating each other's positions. The story is detailed, historically accurate and charming. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Review: Kathryn Smith’s Be Mine Tonight – Historical Romance and Vampires! Brotherhood of the Blood, Book #1 is a Winner!

What could be better than a novel that combines historical romance with vampires? —And does it well? Here’s a story of knights who became vampires—a series that transitioned me from loving paranormal romance into loving historical romance. You won’t want to miss it as it combines both and does it with excellence in writing.

In the 1300s, six Templar knights search for the Holy Grail. They think they have found it when they locate an ancient goblet in a dark cave. When one of them is mortally wounded, he drinks from the dark liquid in the goblet hoping to be healed. When he is quickly made well, the others drink. What they found, however, was not the Grail, but some dark force that changed them forever, turning them into vampires unlike any other. The suicide of one of their own and events that follow drive them apart, but six centuries later, an ancient evil conspires to reunite them again.

In this first in the series, we meet Chapel, the knight who drank first from the cup. All these centuries, he has served as a holy warrior, hiding himself away from human contact. Now he's forced to travel to England where an ancient evil lingering in the caves may be awakened. Prudence Ryland, dying and almost out of hope, desperately needs a miracle and thinks she might have found it. But Chapel is reluctant to help the dying girl, not wanting anyone to bear the curse of being a vampire. Prudence will have to convince him to help her. Will he be able to let the woman he is coming to love die?

My highest rating for a series is that when it's over and I've read them all, I do not want to say good-bye to the characters. This was one of those. I believe Kathryn Smith has one of the very best with Brotherhood of the Blood. The vampires are complex characters and noble at heart. They love their women with a deep abiding love--just what you'd want and so hard to find. The plots are worthy; the love scenes are truly believable; and the action keeps you reading late at night. I devoured these books--finishing all of them in a week's time. If you love vampires AND historical romance, you will love these, I promise.

Here are the books:

BE MINE TONIGHT (Chapel, 2006)
TAKEN BY THE NIGHT (Saint, 2007)
NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (Temple, 2009)

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Review: The Enchantment by Betina Krahn – Brilliant Viking Romance!

I have come to appreciate Betina Krahn's attention to historic detail in her well-told romances. She spends time with each description, each is truly excellence in romance writing. At 400+ pages, you get a well-woven tale with this one as she spends time in developing characters so that you have a good feeling for who they are, the way they look at the world and the customs of the time they observed. I loved it.

This is a Viking romance that takes you back to the late Viking period when the Swedish Vikings sailed all the way to Byzantium. It was also a time when the old Asa (pagan) gods were being replaced by Christianity and the "White Christ." Krahn treats the subject with great care, showing us how the old often combined with the new as the people's beliefs slowly changed over time.

Since she was a young girl, Aaren, daughter of Serrick, was told she was unusually tall and strong, trained to be a warrior, a battle-maiden, and not a woman of the hearth, because her mother was a Valkyr, a daughter of the Viking gods. She is beautiful with a long, lean body, dark red hair, and golden eyes. Aaren has two beautiful sisters, also daughters of Serrick, and born from another, blond Valkyr. Knowing he is dying, Serrick brings his three daughters to the village of Borger, a powerful jarl, and gives them in payment of his tax debt--but with conditions. No man may touch them or wed them until one man can defeat Aaren in sword fighting; then each may be given in marriage. Borger accepts the payment and the conditions with his eldest son, Jorund, in mind. Jorund is a huge, handsome Viking, who two years ago tired of battle lust and the "dew of wounds" (blood). Jorund has no intention of fighting any woman, but after Aaren defeats two of Borger's best warriors, Borger decrees that no man may fight Aaren save Jorund. Aaren wants to end the curse and the condition so that her sisters may marry, so she prods and taunts Jorund into fighting her, but he resists.

That's the basic storyline, and except for the myth underlying Aaren and her sisters' introduction to the village, which myth Jorund doesn't accept since he is a follower of the White Christ, the rest of the story is pure historical romance. It's an unusual courtship, to be sure, and there is more than one romance in this book. As Viking romances go, it's unusual, very detailed and well written. It's not a fast-paced light read, however. You need a good rainstorm, a cup of tea and a fire in the hearth to settle in and enjoy this one. I highly recommend it.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Review: Monica MCarty’s The Chief: First in the Highland Guard Series a bit Slow with a Whiny Heroine

We all love a good Highlander romance, right? So I eagerly bought this one thinking I had a winner. I have read others by McCarty I enjoyed, which made this one all the more disappointing. She can certainly write well (good dialog, well phrased narrative, interesting storyline), and the idea of a special forces unit to defend Robert the Bruce was unique, but the story and the match of hero to heroine were only so so. 

The story began slowly. First, there were too many pages of introspective thought (pages of the heroine chewing over her circumstances like a dog with a bone. I just wanted to slap her). The hero’s inner lusting after her body parts went on and on (some is good, too much gets old). It was predictable in parts. The constant use of Gallic terms was a distraction (the book needed a glossary); and, she used clichéd characterizations. Finally, and this is a comment made by others who have reviewed all the books in the series, the hero may be a hunky Highlander, but the heroine was weak (and in this case, whiny). I like strong heroines. In this case, the hero and heroine were mismatched.

The Chief is the first in the Highland Guard series (The Chief, The Hawk, The Ranger and The Viper so far; The Saint is coming in 2012). Set in Scotland in 1305, the basic plot involves the creation of a medieval “special ops” team of Highlanders who will help Robert the Bruce gain the Scottish throne following King Edward’s brutal killing of William Wallace. Each book tells the story of a team member’s romance.

In this first tale, through manipulation by the heroine, Christina Fraser, and her father (the instigator), our hero Tor MacLeod, head of clan MacLeod, is tricked into a marriage he doesn’t want that will prevent him from making an alliance he needs for his clan and will expose his clan to the wrath of King Edward, because the alliance requires him to train/lead Bruce’s special ops team. OK, right off the bat, the whole manipulation-into-marriage turned me off to the heroine as well as the hero (it made him look weak). But I could have overcome that if it was the only negative. It was the relationship between them that so disappointed. Tor was a clan chief dominated by his duty and Christina was…not interesting…and really had no feeling for the burden he carried. By page 320, they had not seen eye to eye and the heroine was getting on my nerves. (Of course, he doesn’t notice the flowers on the table you ditz, he’s the head of the warriors!) When the hero finally did realize he loved her, it wasn't believable. I got that he lusted for her body but love? Don’t think so.

The book was too easy to put down.