Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Review: Susan Carroll’s THE BRIDE FINDER - Fascinating Late 18th Century Romance But With a Slow Pace and Issues

This book won the RITA Award for "best novel" in 1999, which I found surprising. The concept for the story is fascinating and the writing good, but I have to say, the delivery on that concept was disappointing and the pace was slow. The heroine and hero were also problematic. About 120 pages in, I started skipping through passages to hurry along the story and kept up that practice through the rest of the book. You get the picture.

Set in Cornwall, likely in the late 18th century (though no date is given, they were wearing wigs and tricornes), this story tells of a family descended from a sorcerer, who live in a mysterious castle bordering the sea, a family with unique powers. They also have a special way of selecting their brides. Each man must marry the mate selected by a "Bride Finder," or face early death and disaster. When the moody, reclusive and troubled Anatole St. Leger, the "dread lord," decides at 29 it's time to marry, he sends the Bride Finder to London to select the right girl. And so it was that Madeline Breton came to Cornwall to meet the man she married by proxy. Fascinated? I was. But all the hints of mystery, a once dead sorcerer haunting a part of the castle, powers aplenty and past rivalries of the various families weren't enough to keep me awake.

A lot of the story is told through narrative and introspection that went on for an awfully long time before something happened. You know, a paragraph of introspection for every line of dialog. The wedding night fiasco didn't seem quite real when you consider this guy, though a troubled lord, was a man of sexual experience. Then, after that, they lived in the castle together for weeks without any physical relationship, which seemed bizarre even though he had this vague plan to gently woo her. I found the heroine bland and timid; the hero vacillated between a strong, blustering male and a week, insecure man. Neither won me over.

Borrowing from the song in Camelot, "How To Handle a Woman," when our hero asks his sorcerer ancestor how to win his bride, he is told "simply love her." Nice advice and he does figure it out, rather suddenly actually. Hard to believe that would ever happen with a man who was rejected by his mother.

It took me three days to get through this book and not because it's 400 pages long. (If it’s good, I can read that in a day…) No, it just proceeds at a slow pace that made it easy to set down. If you don't mind the pace, I can recommend it. Having purchased all three of the books in the trilogy (see list below), I may eventually get around to reading them but I’m in no hurry.

The St. Leger Legacy trilogy:

THE BRIDE FINDER (1998), Anatole and Madeline
THE NIGHT DRIFTER (1998), Lance and Rosalind
MIDNIGHT BRIDE (2001), Valentine (Val) and Kate

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Favorite Author: Rebecca Brandewyne - Romances That Sweep You Away

I love a romance that sweeps me away and holds me captive till the last page—one that is well-researched and well written with characters I actually care about. Well, Rebecca Brandewyne writes those kinds of stories. My first by her was ROSE OF RAPTURE, a wonderful medieval. I gave it 5 stars and immediately put it on my Best Medieval Romances list on Amazon. 

She has won many Romantic Times awards and is a New York Times best selling author. No surprise to me. I have read all those on the list below that have an “*”, but I intend to read more of hers and several are now on my “to be read” shelf. Like many authors, based on the reviews, she has been a bit inconsistent over time. However, I can recommend all her romances I have read. 

·      Rose of Rapture (1984)*
·      And Gold Was Ours (1984)*
·      Love Cherish Me (1985)* – Reviewed in today’s blog
·      Desire in Disguise (1987)*
·      No Gentle Love (1987)*
·      Upon a Dark Moor (1988)
·      The Lioness Tamer (1988)
·      Across a Starlit Sea (1989)
·      Forever My Love (1989)*
·      Heartland (1990)
·      Beyond the Starlit Frost (1991)
·      Rainbow’s End (1991)
·      Passion Moon Rising (1991)
·      The Outlaw Hearts (1993)
·      Swan Road (1994)
·      The Jacaranda Tree (1995)
·      Wildcat (1995)
·      Dust Devil* (1996)
·      Desperado (1996)
·      Hired Husband (1996)
·      Glory Seekers (1997)
·      High Stakes (1999)
·      Destiny’s Daughter (2001)
·      The Love Knot (2003)
·      The Ninefold Key (2004)
·      The Crystal Rose (2006)
·      From the Mists of Wolf Creek (2009)

New Review: Rebecca Brandewyne’s LOVE, CHERISH ME: Captivating Saga of the American West, Texas Style

I have read a fair amount of romances (I have 350+ romance reviews on Amazon), and while I understand the current trend for short, snappy dialog with little history or details (even in the historical romances), frankly, after a few of those, I find myself wanting to dive into a well-researched, well-written saga that sweeps me away. I have a few authors I keep just for those times. Brandewyne is one. Yes, she doesn't hit it every time. Few do. But this romance, like her book, ROSE OF RAPTURE, will carry you to another time and place. You'll feel like you've lived it when the story ends. When I finished it, I found myself wanting a sequel. (Alas, there is no sequel, but AND GOLD WAS OURS gives us another glimpse of Storm and Wolf.)

Who could not love Wolf (El Lobo)? He is a man haunted by a past in which men seized lands and imposed cruel reigns in the process. We don't learn the complete story of Wolf's past until the end, but it's worth the wait. As for the heroine, Storm Lesconflair, the Belle of New Orleans, she starts out as an indulged 16-year-old given every advantage, but when her parents die, her life takes a plunge. She rises to every challenge life throws at her to become a beautiful woman of grace, intelligence and great depth. Their love is the love of legends.

The romance is divided into five "books" and spans the time period between 1848 to 1866. Except for the first chapter, which gives us a glimpse of the end, it is very logical in the way it proceeds. The first chapter shows us the present, 1866, and it's almost an epilogue that can be skipped till the end (I re-read it after the book). Then we are back at the beginning, in 1848, and Storm is being forced into an arranged marriage with a rich, cruel Texas rancher she doesn't love. On her way to meet him, her stagecoach is overtaken by a gang of outlaws and Storm is taken captive. She is then won in a card game by the gunslinger they call El Lobo, thought to be a half breed Indian, but a man all men fear and respect. The darkly handsome gunslinger, dressed in black and silver, seems to have honor and would give her freedom, but Storm prefers his company to the thieves and scoundrels in the bar. So she follows him.

The story unfolds as we travel from New Orleans high society of the mid 1800s to the Texas frontier to San Francisco and then back to Texas. Along the way, Brandewyne introduces us to some wonderful characters, including a group of Comanches who are Wolf's adopted family, and we get to learn about the Indian culture, which had much to teach the white man.

If you like romances that sweep you away and the story of love that conquers overwhelming odds, you will love this story. I HIGHLY recommend it. It's on my "keeper" shelf to be re-read in future.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

New Review: Marsha Bauer’s PIRATE’S ANGEL - A Pirate to Love!

This was my first by Marsha Bauer and I LOVED it! Bauer does some important things so well, avid romance readers will be drooling: (1) She develops characters slowly, layer by layer, so you feel you really know them; (2) The chemistry between the hero and heroine is amazing and develops over time; (3) the love scenes are so tender yet real they will have you squirming; (4) the plot twists are wonderfully creative but still believable, not contrived; (5) her dialog is real and complex, not that frivolous stuff so frequently found in romance today; and finally (5) her story is so enthralling I could not put it down. She does move from head to head rather quickly and briefly at times, but it didn’t bother me at all. Her style is easy to read and very enjoyable.

This is an American historical set in 1814. It’s the story of violet-eyed beauty, Ivy Woodruff, the product of her mother’s two-week capture by a notorious pirate, Keils Cauldron (his ship is the Black Cauldron). Raised by her English mother and minister father who, though not her real father, loved and accepted her, Ivy hates the pirate who used her mother and then dismissed her. Ivy is 22 and employed as a governess, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay with her employers, when the Black Cauldron captures her ship. Drake Jordan is a young pirate leader who is working with Keils Cauldron. He attempts to take Ivy to his cabin and she cries out for her real father, Keils Cauldron, who is standing on deck, to protect her. Keils’ only son has just been murdered and Keils is hunting for the killer with Drake when he is faced with the young woman with his own violet eyes and black hair claiming to be his daughter. That’s pretty much the set up for this intriguing story in which Drake (who is wildly attracted to Ivy), and Keils drag Ivy with them on the hunt for the murderer, a hunt that will have some surprising turns. At the same time, Keils is keeping Ivy close, insisting she sleep in Drake’s room so he can watch her and prevent her escape. Keils is also exploring the evidence Ivy says proves she’s his daughter, all the while thinking she is deceiving him. Drake, an educated, wealthy pirate (by choice) prides himself on only having robbed the British, but that doesn’t impress Ivy, who is betrothed to a caring young minister and has no desire to repeat her mother’s history.

It’s a story as old as time: we set out to be our own person and end up repeating family history. It’s also a story of choices, some good and others better though perhaps more difficult. It’s a story of trust and how easily it can be destroyed. And, of course, it’s a story of love. Bauer did a great job drawing the character of Ivy. She is beautiful, intelligent, honest, principled and courageous. Drake is complex, loyal (to his friends) and brave, a man who doesn’t question his choices. He is a man who knows his own mind, and he knows he wants Ivy. He is a pirate to love!

You won’t regret getting this one, I promise.

Bauer has two other books out (SWEET CONQUEST and TREASURED EMBRACE) and I have just ordered them both. I can’t wait to read them. (Like many authors, she is bringing her backlist to e-books.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Every now and then I just love a good Viking Romance. Nothing like a Viking raid and a strapping tall warrior to get your blood boiling, right? Well, I have a list of those I’ve rated 5 and 4 stars on Amazon for just this purpose. I thought my blog readers might like to see which ones I consider “best,” as I have waded through many I could not recommend. Here are my favorites:

·      Raeliksen (reviewed in today’s post) and the sequel, Mac Liam by Renee Vincent
·      Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
·      Viking Gold by Nadine Crenshaw
·      Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
·      The Enchantment (first published as My Warrior’s Heart) by Betina Krahn
·      Dawnfire by Lynn Erickson
·      Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, trilogy by Heather Graham Pozzessere
·      Fires of Winter, Hearts Aflame and Surrender My Love, trilogy by Johanna Lindsey (Hearts Aflame is the only 5 star in the set, but Fires of Winter is good, too; and they can be read separately.)
·      Maidensong by Diana Groe (I did not like the sequel, ERINSONG, as well)
·      The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford

Let me know if I’ve missed one you love! I know there are good ones out there you have read and I am always looking for a great Viking romance.

New Review: Renee Vincent’s RAELIKSEN - Unique, Well-Told Viking Story!

I love a good Viking story and sadly, too many publishers these days want only Regency or Victorian romances. But the Viking tales still call to me and I’m glad they are still being written. Here’s a new author who is giving us great stories. This one is superb.

Renee Vincent writes with lyrical prose. It's truly beautiful. And she tells a good tale with attention to historic detail that will satisfy lovers of historical romance. This is an unusual Viking story in that there is no raid, no pillaging, no taking of women, none of that. No, our hero, Daegan Raeliksen, a wealthy merchant chieftain from Norway, is an honorable man who makes his home in Ireland. It is there he first sees Mara, daughter of an Irish king, riding her horse near the Shannon River, and it is there he decides he must have her for his wife. It’s love at first sight for him. He only takes her from her lands to save her from a band of warring Norsemen. And, of course, then he must keep her until he can safely return her to her father. Daegan knows he should have permission to wed and to pay the bride price, but he can’t wait to marry Mara and she’s not complaining.

RAELIKSEN is a complicated tale of betrayal (Daegan has an evil twin brother), and deception with a few twists and turns you will really like. However, Daegan and Mara's love is never in doubt. The ending will rip your heart out so that you MUST buy the sequel.

This is going on my Best Viking Romances list and I recommend it.

You should also note this is first in The Emerald Isle trilogy. The sequel, MAC LIAM is out now; and the third, THE FALL OF RAIN (a contemporary with a descendent of Daegan's but harkening back to the first), is due out in December. But hang on…there is a 4th (perhaps this isn’t a trilogy after all!). Due out in December 2012, it’s THE TEMPERATE WARRIOR, and tells Gustaf Ræliksen and Æsa's story. I can’t wait for that one, as I loved Gustaf in MAC LIAM.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Review: Mary Wine’s IN BED WITH A STRANGER - Beguiling Tale of a Scot's True Love!

Set in 16th century England and Scotland (mostly Scotland), this is the first in the McJames trilogy. It is a very clever, well-told tale. Like other Wine romances, her dialog is believable and truly well crafted, her characters multidimensional, the history seamlessly woven in (and accurate). Typically, her romances include very hot love scenes, too. I do wish she would describe the characters' physical features better as we hardly know what they look like. But, oh well, I digress.

This first story tells of Anne Cooper, the acknowledged bastard daughter of the Earl of Warwickshire. The Earl would never have taken a mistress if his unloving wife hadn't spurned his bed for fear of dying in childbed after having a difficult first birth with her daughter Mary. But his wife refuses to relent, and in time, the Earl comes to love his mistress and their children and takes care to have the children well educated. Though Anne was raised as a servant in her father's house (think Cinderella), and is resented by the Earl's wife, Anne has become a young woman of grace and intelligence. When her father decides to arrange the marriage of Anne’s legitimate half sister Mary (by proxy) to the Scottish Earl of Alcaon, Brodick McJames, Mary and her mother plot to send Anne to Scotland instead of Mary since she has no desire to bear a child. The plan is for Anne to get pregnant and then return to England, and then they will substitute Mary for Anne. Anne resists the deception, and is only persuaded to go along with it when her mother and siblings are threatened. Once in Scotland, Anne finds she respects Brodick and his clan. Their physical relationship becomes quite special, and (no surprise), they fall in love.

You will enjoy this story of two wonderful people falling in love in a time when James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots, ruled Scotland. It's a triumph of love over legitimacy. I recommend it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Favorite Author: Heather Graham, Prolific Author of Historical Romance

Writing as Heather Graham, Heather Graham Pozzessere--and most often with her historical novels, as Shannon Drake--Graham is a prolific author with over 75 million books in print. A New York Times best seller, she has written approximately one hundred romance novels, many of them historicals (my personal favorites). She has been honored with awards from Walden Books, B. Dalton, Georgia Romance Writers, Affaire de Coeur, Romantic Times—and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America.

I spoke with Heather this year and she told me there is nothing she likes better than writing “a juicy historical.” She also told me she hopes to return to writing them in the future. I hope so, as she is one of my all time favorites—she’s in that handful of I consider the “best of the best.”

Listed below are my favorite historicals by her. Some are available only as used books, but she is also beginning to re-release them as new and e-books. All are well worth the effort to obtain them.

2-book “Fire” series:

·      Princess of Fire (reviewed in this blog)
·      Knight of Fire

The Cameron Saga (told in two trilogies that should be read in order and take us from England to the New World, America and into the Civil War):

  --The North American Women trilogy:

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

  --The Cameron Civil War trilogy:

·      One Wore Blue
·      And One Wore Gray
·      And One Rode West

Old Florida's McKenzies series:

·      Runaway
·      Captive
·      Rebel
·      Surrender
·      Glory
·      Triumph

Graham family (Scottish) Series:

·      Come the Morning
·      Conquer the Night
·      Seize the dawn
·      Knight Triumphant
·      The Lion in Glory
·      When We Touch
·      The Queen’s Lady

Victorian trilogy:

·      Wicked
·      Restless
·      Beguiled

Others I loved:

·      Emerald Embrace
·      Devil’s Mistress
·      Damsel in Distress
·      Ondine

New Review: Shannon Drake’s PRINCESS OF FIRE: Enthralling William the Conqueror Romance!

This was one of those historical romances that sweeps you away from the beginning and holds you captive until the last page. I could not put it down. It is set in 11th century England and Normandy, the time when William the Conqueror, the bastard duke of Normandy, sought to be king of England following Edward the Confessor's death.

The prologue begins with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and its immediate aftermath. Alaric, the bastard Count of Anlou, has served William since he was 12 and victory is theirs that day. Fallon, the beautiful Saxon princess, daughter of King Harold Godwinson, sees her father and uncles killed and her betrothed lost to her, when her country is ravaged by the dreaded Normans. Alaric, who takes her from the battlefield where she is wielding a sword with the best of the Saxon warriors, claims her innocence and her honor making her his whore. She has lost everything and, trust me, Graham (aka Shannon Drake) makes you feel the loss and the pain. But Fallon and Alaric have a long history, going back to her childhood when he was a young Norman knight. Even then she hated Normans.

After the prologue, the story takes us back in time to the original conception of William and first meeting with Alaric. Alaric becomes William's champion and a valiant warrior and commander of William's knights as they capture Normandy and then cast their eyes toward England. Alaric is in and out of Fallon's life as she grows up and each time they meet it is a tempestuous encounter. She is proud and willful and fiercely loyal to her father, her people and England, and Alaric is a Norman bastard who will not give an inch, though he is known by all to be an honorable knight. But England will be conquered and the Saxons will be subdued. Alaric is bitter toward women since he was betrayed by his wife. So, while he desires Fallon, he will not love her and he wants no wife again. Fallon hates Alaric for all he has taken from her. Now she is his prisoner and his woman whether she likes it or not, but she will never stop fighting.
Escape becomes her passion. Though Alaric doesn't love her, he has claimed her and he will not let her go.

It's another excellent historical tale by Heather Graham (pen name here Shannon Drake) with history woven in so well you do not feel you are getting a history lesson but you will come away with a clear feeling for what England experienced at the hands of the Conqueror. The characters are rich and well developed, the sexual tension very high (nearly constant ) and the action is fast moving. I highly recommend it; it’s on my keeper shelf.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Review: Laura Kinsale’s SEIZE THE FIRE - Masterful, Absorbing Storytelling

This was my first romance by Kinsale and I loved it. An intriguing, well-told tale of a tortured hero who must come to terms with his past, and a brave young woman who must face reality. Kinsale's dialog is snappy, her humor dry and fitting and the characters' inner thinking terribly witty and appropriate for the times. The twists and turns are clever and the angst believable. Very well done!

Set in England, the Falkland Islands, the Middle East and Europe, beginning in 1827, this is the story of Olympia, Princess of Oriens (located between France and Italy), who, as a result of her cruel uncle who killed her parents, is living in exile in England. Her one dream is to see her people free of the monarchy and endowed with a constitutional government, but she is young and naïve and has no idea how to bring that about. When she learns her uncle plans to make her his wife to gain the throne, she decides to travel to Rome to seek help in resisting such a marriage and then return to her country to bring about revolution. In furtherance of this objective, she enlists the aid of a dubious war hero, Captain Sir Sheridan Drake, a jaded rake, who unknown to Olympia, is being leaned on by the British War Department to marry her in order to cement England's control of her country and thwart her uncle's plans to rule. But Sheridan has plans of his own and he doesn't mind if Olympia gets hurt in the process.

Olympia is described as plump with non-classical features and overlarge green eyes (the overall picture a bit hard to conjure but generally not pleasing, though the hero seems to think she is beautiful and we come to believe she is, so go figure). She is also courageous and has good motives and you will like her in any event. She is also in love with Sheridan, which will cause her much pain before it's all over.

There is something for everyone here: a long ocean voyage, sea battles, castaways on an island, betrayal, treachery, loyalty, courage--and a love that overcomes great obstacles.

This story held my interest and kept me turning pages. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Do You Read and Write to Music?

Do you listen to music when you read? When you write? Well, I do—and I love it! It always puts me in the mood and sets the stage.

Some readers of romance like to read in silence. I can respect that. Some writers of romance like silence when they are creating their stories. Not me. I like music that puts me in the scene, even motivates me when I write. One writer of vampire romance told me she likes to write to urban rock. Well, I can see that for some scenes, but for me it’s quite different.

Today I thought I’d share with you the music I love to read and write by—and I’d love to hear from you!

Below I’ve listed some wonderful music that you might try. I have a 3-hour playlist. Sometimes I download only one song on an album (using iTunes). Other times I can use nearly the whole album. Before I add a song to my playlist, I always screen it to make sure it fits. (You do notice when a song makes you look up from the page!) I have a main playlist and a Scottish/Celtic playlist, and I alternate between them depending on what time and place my head is in.

Generally, I use movie scores. My favorite composer is the French composer, Alexandre Desplat. You might not know his name but I’m certain you have heard his music.

Here are some of the albums I have used:

By Alexandre Desplat:

·      Coco Before Channel
·      Girl With a Pearl Earring
·      The King’s Speech
·      The Twilight Saga: New Moon
·      Lust, Caution
·      The Painted Veil
·      The Golden Compass
·      Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
·      The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

By James Newton Howard:

·      Peter Pan
·      The Village
·      The Water Horse
·      Lady in the Water

By others:

·      Becoming Jane (Adrian Johnston)
·      Pride & Prejudice (Jean-Yves Thibaudet)
·      Celtic Romance (David Arkenstone)
·      December and Forest albums (George Winston)
·      The Duchess (Rachel Portman)

I’d love to hear from you. Do you listen to music when you read? Or, if you are a romance writer, when you write? If so, share your favorites with me!