Friday, December 30, 2011

New Review: Johanna Lindsey’s GENTLE ROGUE: A Rogue Pirate and a Viscount--another Malory Man!

Set in 1818, the Regency period, this 3rd in Lindsey’s Malory series is a worthy read and you'll enjoy it. After all, it’s got a handsome hunk, a pirate and love on the high seas!

James Mallory was a pirate for some time. Though now reformed and a Viscount, he still sails the seas when he gets the urge. And, he is still a rake. Seducing women, even virgins, is fair game for him. So, when he realizes that the enticing girl he encountered in a tavern dressed as a lad has just boarded his ship still disguised as a boy (named Georgie), he decides to make her his cabin boy with the idea of getting her into his bed. No concern she might be an innocent (and there is much evidence of that), or that having seduced her, he might hurt her or worse--get her pregnant (we're talking months at sea...). No, that wouldn't bother him. After all, he already has one bastard he knows of, his 17-year-old son Jeremy, and he routinely seduces married women. In fact, he has a very low opinion of women just because they are so easily seduced from their marriage vows. Ugh! At that point, I just wanted to flatten the cad. And, make no mistake he is a cad.

When James' ship arrives in Jamaica, and Georgie goes to her brother's ship, docked in the next berth, she acknowledges to herself she is in love with the rake and that she is also pregnant. But she is realistic enough, even at 22, to know the confirmed bachelor means it when he says he'll not marry. So when her brother's ship sails away to New England, leaving her no time to tell James good-bye, she resigns herself to going home alone. Now, if this were real life, she'd never hear from James again, right? Ah, but this is a Johanna Lindsey romance. Sooooo, there will be more story and a happy ending. Call that fantasy perhaps, but it works well here.

A well-told installment in the Mallory series, even if you do have to suspend belief to accept that Georgie could be that naïve (or that stupid) and that a jaded reprobate like James could actually have a heart. The book reads well and keeps up a fast pace. And I love the Malory banter. At least half of the story occurs at sea on James' ship. The rest takes place in London and New England. I recommend it.

The Malory Series:

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Review: Johanna Lindsey’s A HEART SO WILD: Well-told Saga with Indians, Gunslingers and the Dangers of the American West!

This is the first of two novels about the Stratton family in 19th century Texas. At that time, Texas was a rough place bringing together gunmen, cowboys, ranchers and Indians. Many who had lived through the destruction of the Civil War looked to the West for a better life. Courtney Harte's father, a doctor and a Southerner (who ended up on the North’s side), was one of them. Now disillusioned, he decides to move to Texas. On the way there, in Kansas, they are attacked by Comanches seeking vengeance for a massacre of their people that occurred years before. Courtney’s life is spared by a blue-eyed Indian. Thinking her father dead, she stays on to live in Kansas until one day she sees a newspaper photo from Texas and her father is in the background. Courtney decides to hire a gunman to take her to Texas. She chooses Chandos, a ruthless gunslinger.

There are many themes in this romance that Lindsey presents well. First there is the bias against Indians and the way they were treated (though Lindsey recognizes cruelty on both sides). Then there is the fact the West held many dangers, especially for young, beautiful unmarried women. Courtney grows up as she faces danger and rises to various challenges with great courage. Lastly there is the tension that comes from a strong-willed father and an equally strong son, a rebel caught between two worlds.

The dialog is very believable and presents a man of few words and a woman of many. I enjoyed their interaction and the chemistry between them was exceptional. I have since read the sequel, ALL I NEED IS YOU, and it’s not as good.

I really liked this one and recommend it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Review: Johanna Lindsey’s THE PRESENT: Wonderful Christmas Romance and Great Addition to the Malory Series!

My expectations weren’t high for this romance as I’ve been disappointed by several written for the Christmas season. But this was a good one, especially for fans of the Malory series.

Set in 1825, years after Derek and Kelsey met in SAY YOU LOVE ME, the Malorys are gathering at Haverston for Christmas with their brood of children (and there are several new additions). Patriarch Jason Malory is still hoping to marry Molly, his housekeeper, but as yet hasn’t convinced her to accept the scandal it would mean. Before the holiday celebrations can commence, a mysterious present appears in the parlor, a gold-wrapped, oddly shaped box no one seems to know about. As the Malory clan speculates about it, Amy (married to Warren, THE MAGIC OF YOU) says she has a feeling it’s about their Gypsy ancestor, Anna Malory, who gave some of them their black hair and blue eyes.

When the present is opened, it’s a journal that tells a love story of the second Marquis, Christopher Malory and the Gypsy, Anastasia Stephanoff. And it is a good story, one to warm your heart at any season of the year.

If you’ve been reading the Malory series up until this 6th book, you’ll recognize the players and enjoy the reunion as well as the love story. If not, you’ll likely be a little lost at the beginning as the names fly fast and furious.

Here’s the list of the books in the Malory-Anderson Family Saga Series:

1.   Love Only Once (Reggie and Nick)
2.   Tender Rebel (Roslyn and Anthony)
3.   Gentle Rogue (James and Georgina)
4.   The Magic Of You (Amy Malory and Warren Anderson)
5.   Say You Love Me (Kelsey and Derek)
6.   The Present: The Malory Holiday Novel
7.   A Loving Scoundrel (Danny and Jeremy, James’ son)
8.   Captive Of My Desires (Gabrielle and Drew)
9.   No Choice But Seduction (Boyd and Katey)
10. That Perfect Someone (Richard and Julia)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Johanna Lindsey’s Historical Romances: A Mixed Bag You Cannot Ignore

Lindsey wrote her first book, Captive Bride, in 1977 "on a whim." It became an immediate success and 40 plus novels followed. By 2006, over 58 Million copies of her books had been sold worldwide, with translations appearing in 12 languages.

Lindsey's romances cover all eras of history, including Vikings, Medieval, Regency, the American West and others. Among her most popular are the stories about the Malory Family, a Regency saga. While entertaining to be sure, I don’t count them among her best work.

What is disappointing about Lindsey is that she is not consistent. She can write 5 star novels like SAVAGE THUNDER and HEARTS AFLAME, and then follow them by weak stories I would rate no higher than 3 stars. Still, she is a world-renowned author who can tell a good tale when she wants to so you cannot dismiss her work.

Her stories are known for her feisty heroines and domineering heroes. The heroes are often cads and rogues, who are self-reliant, powerful, and of course, sensual.
I have read and reviewed on Amazon all those with an “*”. Let me know if you have a favorite of hers.

Viking Haardrad Family Saga Series

1.    Fires of Winter (1980)*
2.     Hearts Aflame (1987)* (the best in the trilogy and a keeper)
3.     Surrender My Love (1994)*

Southern Series
  1. Glorious Angel (1982)
  2. Heart of Thunder (1983)

Wyoming Westerns Series (I loved this series)
  1. Brave the Wild Wind (1984)*
  2. Savage Thunder (1989)*
  3. Angel (1992)*

Malory-Anderson Family Saga Series

1.   Love Only Once (Reggie and Nick)*
2.   Tender Rebel (Roslyn and Anthony)*
3.   Gentle Rogue (James and Georgina)*
4.   The Magic Of You (Amy and Warren)*
5.   Say You Love Me (Kelsey and Derek)*
6.   The Present: The Malory Holiday Novel*
7.   A Loving Scoundrel (Danny and Jeremy, James’ son)*
8.   Captive Of My Desires (Gabrielle and Drew)
9.   No Choice But Seduction (Boyd and Katey)
10. That Perfect Someone (Richard and Julia)

Straton Family Saga (Western) Series
  1. A Heart So Wild (1986)* (a good one)
  2. All I Need Is You (1997)*

Medieval (Shefford's Knights) Series
  1. Defy Not the Heart (1989)*
  2. Joining (1999)

Cardinia's Royal Family
  1. Once a Princess (1991)
  2. You Belong to Me (1994)

Sherring Cross Series
  1. Man of My Dreams (1992)*
  2. Love Me Forever (1995)
  3. The Pursuit (2002)

Reid Family Series
  1. The Heir (2000)
  2. The Devil Who Tamed Her (2007)
  3. A Rogue of My Own (2009)

Single novels
  • Captive Bride (1977)
  • A Pirate's Love (1978)
  • Paradise Wild (1981)
  • So Speaks the Heart (1983)
  • A Gentle Feuding (1984)*
  • Tender Is the Storm (1985)
  • When Love Awaits (1986)
  • Secret Fire (1987)
  • Silver Angel (1988)
  • Prisoner of My Desire (1991)
  • Until Forever (1995)
  • Home for the Holidays (2000)
  • A Man to Call My Own (2003)
  • Marriage Most Scandalous (2006)
  • When Passion Rules (2011)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Review: Elizabeth Stuart’s WITHOUT HONOR: A REAL Scottish Historical!

Elizabeth Stuart won the RITA award for Best Historical Romance in 1991 for WHERE LOVE DWELLS. That one is one my to be read shelf, but I can say from my reading of WITHOUT HONOR that she has great talent. So many “historical” romances have very little history. Not this one. I love how Stuart seamlessly wove in rich historical events throughout the novel. She brings Scotland of the early 16th century alive as she uses both real people and fictional characters to tell a complex, intriguing story.

It is set in Scotland at the time when Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus, was just divorced from the dowager queen Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII of England. Angus effectively ruled Scotland, being the regent for young King James. Angus was arrogant and claimed too much power for himself drawing the ire of many, including the young king. Against this tumultuous time, Jonet Maxwell, heiress to the clan Maxwell (the enemy of clan Douglas) fled her home (Castle Beryl), seeking to join with her beloved uncle, Robert, Lord Mure. Alexander Hepburn, Baron of Durnam, enemy of Jonet’s uncle, unwittingly intercepts her flight and, once he realizes who she is, uses her to get to her uncle. She is young and naïve and Alexander is a jaded rake who has sold his talents to France, England and Scotland. He lives for revenge of his father’s death, a death he blames on Mure, Jonet’s uncle.

The hero was a cad for most of the book so at times it was hard to like him. He was constantly hurting Jonet. Oh, he warned her he would (don’t they always?) but still he hurt her. And because Jonet was naïve and weak (when it came to him), it sometimes made her come across as spineless. When she went willingly into his arms after he betrayed her, it made me want to slap her. And that was BEFORE he spent the night in the arms of his long time paramour. He would have happily taken Jonet’s innocence then if she hadn’t stopped him—all in the same day! What a cad! Guess the book was named for him. But don’t get me wrong, he comes out smelling like a rose in the end and those with truly no honor are identified. Oh yeah, Jonet gets a spine. It’s a compelling tale and a most worthy romance. I recommend it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Favorite Author: Brenda Joyce

Brenda Joyce is the bestselling author of over forty novels and she is one of my favorites. She has won many awards, and her debut romance, INNOCENT FIRE, won a Best Western Romance award. She has also won the highly coveted Best Historical Romance award for SPLENDOR and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Her stories are wonderfully varied, the emotion just right and the action often intense. While not all consistently 5 stars, they are sufficiently wonderful I can recommend them. I have read all those with an “*” below. Some are on my “Best” lists.

The Bragg Saga:

Innocent Fire, 1988*
Firestorm, 1988*
Violet Fire, 1989*
Dark Fires, 1991*
The Fires of Paradise, 1992*
Scandalous Love, 1992*
Secrets, 1993, (First in the Delanza Series)*

After Innocence* follows Secrets, which is #7 in the Bragg Saga and #1 in the Delanzas two book series. See also, The Darkest Heart, 1989* (connected to The Fires of Paradise {Bragg Series} it’s the hero’s parents)

The de Warenne Dynasty:

Medieval Set:
The Conqueror, 1990
Promise of the Rose, 1993
The Prize, 2004*


The Game, November 1994*
 (Liam O’Neil, Ancestor of Devlin O’Neil of The Prize)

Regency Set:

The Prize, October 2004  
The Masquerade, 2005
The Stolen Bride, 2006
A Lady At Last, 2006
The Perfect Bride, 2007

Victorian Set:

A Dangerous Love, 2008
The Promise, 2010
An Impossible Attraction, 2010

Francesca Cahill Deadly Series:
This series features Rick Bragg and Calder Hart, both sons of Rathe Bragg whose story is told in Violet Fire in the Bragg Series.

Deadly Love, January 2001
Deadly Pleasure, March 2002
Deadly Affairs, April 2002
Deadly Desire, May 2002
Deadly Caress, April 2003
Deadly Promise, November 2004
Deadly Illusions, November 2005
Deadly Kisses, February 2006
Deadly Vows, March 2011

Saint Georges Series:
Beyond Scandal, 1995
The Finer Things, 1997

Other Historical Novels:
The Rival, 1998
Splendor, 1997*
Captive, 1996 (time travel)
The Darkest Heart, 1989*
(connected to The Fires of Paradise {Bragg Series} it’s the hero’s parents)

New Review: Brenda Joyce’s DARK FIRES – Superb Victorian Romance!

This is another truly superb romance by Brenda Joyce. Set in England in 1874-1876, DARK FIRES tells 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, when 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.

Instantly attracted to the beautiful young blond, 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 haut ton and Jane is from 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!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Week Review: Christina Skye’s CHRISTMAS KNIGHT - Time Travel Christmas Romance with a Handsome Medieval Knight

This is the story of a 13th century Scottish knight, Ronan MacLeod, who is back from the Crusades and looking forward to being at home in the Highlands at Glenbrae. But before much can happen, he time travels to 1998 at the behest of three witches who think he's a proper match for the new owner of Glenbrae. She's an Ameican named Hope O'Hara.

Hope has seen tragedy in her life and is now without family and barely making it on her inheritance that she has used to turn Glenbrae House into a Highland historic inn. Ronan arrives in a storm to save her life and the chemistry is instant between them. But Ronan is afraid to let his growing love for Hope take him where he wants to go because he may be snatched back in time 700 years without notice. 

The whole tale takes place at Glenbrae around Christmas. It's a charming story with some bad guys and a ghost that make it interesting, though sometimes I did think it lagged a bit, was repetitive and sufficiently vague in places that I had to read the passage more than once to figure out what exactly was going on. Still, it's a good story and if you're looking for an endearing Christmas romance, this might be for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Week Review: Heather Graham Pozzessere’s A MAGICAL CHRISTMAS - Well told fantasy (with some depressing elements)

I am a fan of Heather Graham (aka Shannon Drake, etc.) and have loved her many historical and other romances, so I grabbed this one up along with a few other Christmas romances by her.

This one is a tale of two families, separated by generation, one living in modern times and one from the time of the Civil War. It’s very well-written with some heartwarming moments and a happy ending for at least one family, but it begins with a disaster that sees the end of an entire Civil War family. Then we enter the lives of the contemporary family torn apart by betrayal and mistrust and continual arguments. I can only assume Graham wanted to show us the typical family that isn’t always in harmony at this time of year. The Civil War (now ghost) family helps the modern so that there is a happy ending (though it's rather bittersweet since the ghost family only gets together on Christmas Eve). 

If you have a family that needs to learn to appreciate each other, this could be the ticket. Unlike her other romances, the Christmas ones are all "G rated."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Week Review: Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux’s SIMPLE GIFTS - four heartwarming Christmas stories: JUST CURIOUS, MIRACLES, CHANGE OF HEART AND DOUBLE EXPOSURE - 5 Stars for these wonderful Christmas love stories!

I don't generally like short stories--I find there just isn't enough "meat" for me. But this collection is different. I picked it up for the Judith McNaught romance of Nicki DuVille (a character in many of her historical romances) and Lady Skeffington. But what a pleasant surprise to find not one but four 5 star Christmas romances!! Each story is well crafted and will capture your heart. My only thought was that each justified its own full length novel they were so good.

You won't be disappointed...this is a keeper and can be read any time of the year though each has a Christmas theme. Here are the stories:

By Judith McNaught:

MIRACLES - Nicki DuVille is living the life of a handsome nobleman who has all the women he wants but no intention of settling down with any of them. But then he meets Julianna Skeffington who asks him to "ruin" her so that she won't have to marry the old lord her mother has selected. Caught running out of his room by their hostess and Julianna's mother, Nicki is forced to wed her and he is not happy about it and refuses to even see her until his ailing mother has a Christmas wish.

DOUBLE EXPOSURE - Correy Foster, ace photographer and sister by marriage to the very successful Diana Foster, queen of the Foster "Beautiful Living" empire (think Martha Stewart), was in love with the dashing Spencer Addison as a young girl until he broke her heart. Now, many years later and all grown up, she is asked to photograph the holiday wedding of his niece to be held at his mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. She agrees to do it believing she is so over him. Ah, but is he over her?

By Jude Deveraux:

JUST CURIOUS - Karen loved her husband and even though it's been 2 years since he died, she has yet to move on. Though she has a gift for business, she is working as a typist to save money to start her own some day. And she thinks of the boss, McAlister Taggert ("Mac"), as an ogre who sends his many fiancés running out of his office after seeing the prenuptial agreements. Though she doesn't work for him directly, Karen has typed the agreements for his secretaries so she knows just why. But then he meets her and offers her the chance to fill in for his ex-fiancé for a week at Christmas and to be in a family wedding. She never has anything to do at Christmas, so she accepts even though she can't stand the man.

CHANGE OF HEART - Two endearing and precocious teenagers, Eli and Chelsea, one very smart and one very rich, conspire to match Eli's mother to the man heading the Taggert empire, Frank Taggert, a man Eli has come to see as a father figure. His mother, Randy, is a softhearted single mom who loves her son and ekes out a living as a nurse. Eli and Chelsea enlist the help of Frank's brother, Mike to hire Randy to nurse Frank while he recovers in a cabin high in the mountains. Neither she nor Frank knows of the matchmaking attempt but both succumb to the undeniable attraction between them while admitting nothing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Christmas Week!

It's that time of year when the historical romance lover considers novels focused on the season. I don’t know about you but I have found Christmas romances to be a mixed bag. Even great romance writers can turn out something not up to their usual standard for the sake of appealing to all at this season. This week I’m going to post reviews of four Christmas romances I can recommend. And, I would love to have the name of any favorites of yours! Here's the first one:

Michele Sinclair’s A CHRISTMAS KNIGHT - Wonderful Medieval Christmas Romance with Traditions of the Faith

This is a great Medieval (12th century) Christmas romance. Sinclair begins each chapter with a tradition of Christmastide or Twelfthtide (the 12 days of Christmas) as celebrated then. It’s a unique touch that really puts you in the season while giving you a worthy love story!

Ranulf, a knight of King Henry II, who is scarred (literally and figuratively) as a result of his heroism of the past and shunned by most women, is a warrior known for his feats of valor. With the death of his father and cousin, he is reluctantly persuaded by an older knight, Leon le Breton, at Henry's insistence, to return to England and accept the responsibility of Lord of Hunswick Castle in Cambria. In an accident aboard ship that claims the life of le Breton, Ranulf grants the dying man's wish and agrees to marry the youngest of his three daughters, Lily. When Ranulf arrives at Huswick, it is the oldest daughter Bronwyn who captures his heart. Bronwyn is posing as her younger sister Lily to try and save her from an unwanted marriage, but Ranulf is not fooled. It is Bronwyn he wants.

Sinclair does a great job of weaving in the Christmas season's traditions that were being celebrated in the 12th century (and many today as well) while drawing us into a true love between two people who have much to give. I really enjoyed this one! Two minor nits: Bronwyn's hair color is described alternately as gold, light brown, dark tawny and chestnut which are not the same color. Also, the "loose thread" of the romance between Ranulf's best friend, Tyr, and Bronwyn's sister, Edythe, is never resolved (not even in the epilog) and that left me hungry for more!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Review: Maureen Kurr’s DECEPTIVE HEART - Addictive Tale of Deception and Love

Maureen Kurr won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award in 1984 for NORTHWARD THE HEART. (That one is on my “to be read” shelf). After reading DECEPTIVE HEART, it was easy to see why she’s a winner.

Set in England in 1705, this is the story of Lady Anne Thornton, a 17-year-old squire's daughter who married an old earl who treats her like a treasured daughter, never touching her. When he knows he is dying without an heir, the earl searches for and finds his illegitimate son, Christian Montaigne, whose mother was French. Christian has made his own money in France and doesn't need the earl's fortune, but he is happy to be recognized as his father's son and heir, even happier to meet the earl's beautiful young wife. When the earl dies (very early in the story), Anne's cruel father devises a scheme to have a stranger get Anne, who is a virgin, pregnant in order to claim the child is the posthumous heir of the late earl. But the stranger he hires is a Frenchman who tells Christian of the plot.

Christian is a hero any woman could love: handsome, honorable and a wee bit angry at the plot the woman he wants has devised to steal his inheritance. Anne is a pure heart who would never do anyone wrong, and though she couldn't care less about the earl's money, she is afraid of her cruel father. He already forced her to marry the old earl, a man she didn't love (though she became a devoted wife loved by all). Now he is has threatened her mother, forcing Anne to mate with a stranger in the dark. Attracted to Christian, and not wanting to hurt him or deceive him, she initially tries to escape her father's plan, but then she reluctantly agrees in order to save her mother. Little does she know the man who takes her in the dark is none other than Christian.

While the writing includes some longer passages of introspection and narrative, this story is one I could not put down. It tells of what happens when at first you set out to deceive, even for good motives, and then hurt the one you love--the one who loves you. In this case, each deceives the other--for most of the book. The author did a great job of building the tension and keeping the various plot threads twisting and turning.

I highly recommended this romance.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Latest Project: To Read the Golden Heart Historical Winners

Are you curious to see what kind of first books by romance authors are deemed worthy of a great prize by the Romance Writers of America? Well, I was. I decided to take a look at the work of the authors who won the prestigious Golden Heart Award in the historical romance category (at least since they have had the category). These are romance novels written by as yet unpublished authors. Many went on to write more romances, some had successful careers.

What is interesting to note is that many of the “big names” are missing from the list, names such as historical authors Heather Graham, Linda Lael Miller, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Elizabeth Lowell, though they won RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. And others, who won the Romantic Times best historical romance author awards are missing, like Marsha Canham, Bertrice Small, Connie Brockway, Maggie Osborne, Theresa Medeiros, Lisa Kleypas, and others. Many of the Golden Heart historical winners did not have long careers as romance authors, some none at all. So, not every writer of great historical romance is launched this way. And, of course, there are many other categories of the award. Still, the historical romance authors who garnered this coveted prize are worthy of our attention.

I decided it was a worthy project to try and read at least one by each author (if I could find them). They are listed below. Note that the early awards didn’t name the book titles, and some Golden Heart winners don’t provide that information on their websites. I will be posting reviews as I read them, beginning with Nadine Crenshaw’s Mountain Mistress today.

Golden Heart Historical Romance Winners:

2010: Between Heaven and Hell by Jacqui Nelson
2009: Butterfly Swords Jeannie Lin
2008: Wanting Finian by Kris Kennedy
2007: Sager’s Passion by Elaine Levine (published as Rachel and the Hired Gun)
2006: The Education of Mrs. Brimley by Donna MacMeans
2005: Ruined by Victoria Grondahl
2004: Once A Thief by Kimberly Snoke
2003: Unmasked by Diane Perkins
2002: Rules of Engagement by Kathryn Caskle
2001: Black Stone Keep by Gay Thornton
2000: Shades of Honor by Wendy Bores
1999: Tarleton’s Wife by Grace Ann Kone
1998: Star-Crossed by Tracy Cozzens
1997: The Path of The Wind by Deborah Hale
1998: White Roses by Janet Lee Nickoles

Before 1988, RWA didn’t identify the book title; in some cases I have identified them or the earliest book published by the author.

1995: Linda Needham (For My Lady’s Kiss)
1994: Stephanie Diane Maynard (Lord of Misrule)
1993: Donna Royer
1992: Kathleen Gerberick
1991: Susan Sizemore (Wings of the Storm)
1990: Christina Dodd (Candle in the Window)
1989: Anita Gordon (The Valiant Heart)
1988: Patricia Gaffney (Sweet Treason)
1987: Nadine Crenshaw (Mountain Mistress, reviewed in today’s blog)
1986: Jill Marie Landis (Sunflower)
1985: Linda Bartell (Alyssa)
1984: Maureen Kurr (Northward the Heart)
1983: Betina Lindsey (Waltz with the Lady)

Nadine Crenshaw’s MOUNTAIN MISTRESS – Captivating Western Historical!

This was Nadine Crenshaw’s first book and it won the Golden Heart Award in 1987. I can see why. Oh, I can hear you saying it’s just an old 80s romance. Well, not so. Crenshaw’s first novel would compete well with ANYTHING out there in romance today. Her writing is superb. Her story captivates—it’s a real page-turner, a keeper.

It is an all consuming, passionate story of the relationship between a Scottish born mountain man the Indians call “Waiting Cougar,” who takes an unwilling “winter squaw”—one he bought with beaver pelts from the Blackfeet Indians who captured her in a raid. Innocent, young Victorine Wellesley, with pale blonde hair and blue eyes, was raised in Philadelphia in the parlor rooms of elegant homes only to be forced to leave when her father died and her foolish brother took her west. Almost raped by the Blackfeet Indians who killed her brother and his wife, she is “rescued” by Cougar and forced to travel with him high into the Bitterroot Mountains—and to warm his bed of furs for the winter. He calls her “wife,” but she knows better. She is not a real wife, she’s only a “mountain mistress.”

Victorine, who Cougar names “Flame,” feels her identity slipping away as she begins to dress like a squaw, her beautiful fair skin turns brown from the sun and she falls victim to the passion he seems to draw from her at his will. You will be inspired as her courage rises to every challenge (and there are many in the wild mountains). As she has with all her subsequent romances, Crenshaw draws you into her story and into Victorine’s mind from the beginning. You can literally feel the anger and frustration rise in you as your sympathy for Victorine (“Flame”) grows with each day of the long journey into the mountains. She wants her freedom but she cannot resist the man who has led her into this life. Since she knows nothing of surviving in a wilderness, she is well and truly trapped.

Crenshaw presents accurately the essence of the era (19th century American frontier), even the nuances in speech. She has the place names, history and Indian culture (Blackfeet and Salish) just right. In face, she has it ALL just right. It is such a good story!! I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Review: Anthology MASTERS OF SEDUCTION by Marsha Canham, Virginia Henley, Jacque D’Alessandro, Jull Gregory, Sherri Browning Erwin and Julie Ortolon: A Sampler of Appetizing Stories from Master Romance Writers

I don’t ordinarily like anthologies (not enough story for me) but when I saw that master romance writers Marsha Canham, Virginia Henley, Jacquie D’Alessandro, Jill Gregory, Sherri Browning Erwin, and Julie Ortolon had a new one that weaves six tales together involving a magic mirror pendant over the centuries, I just had to have it.  

I do have a few comments that might help you with this one. First, the title is not descriptive of what’s inside. There are no masters of seduction in this anthology; I’m not sure there’s any seduction (though there’s an accusation of it in the last story). Rather, it’s merely six stories of couples coming together where the common element is a mirror that reveals to the bearer her heart’s desire (a la the mirror of Erised from Harry Potter).

The collection, which includes 4 historicals and 1 paranormal and 1 contemporary, should have been titled HEART’S DESIRE. I’ve reviewed each of the stories below. I think the best way to describe the anthology (to which I have collectively given 4 and ½ stars), is to call it a “sampler” of appetizers served up by master romance writers. You have to buy their full novels to see their greater talents and I suppose that was the purpose. Still, it is a good introduction to their styles and genres and I can recommend it.

WHAT THE HEART SEES, by Marsha Canham: 4 stars
I have read all of Marsha’s historical novels and given each of them 5 stars. (She is on all my “Best” lists.) While her writing is superb as always, there isn’t enough of a story here to draw the highest rating from me. Set in 1193 in England, this is the tale of Cassie, a forester's daughter and a formidable archer (if you can believe a girl who is described as not tall could pull 150 pounds on a long bow) who, while helping Lord Thomas Purefoy defeat Prince John’s attack, has a chance encounter with an ancient blind jeweler who shows her a hidden door and a mirrored pendent that reveals her heart’s desire. Good story with clever twists and set the stage well for the anthology; would have been a great novel.

A ROUGH WOOING, by Virginia Henley: 3 and ½ stars
Henley is a great storyteller and I like her novels but I think she tried to do too much here. The romance didn’t build slowly enough to be convincing and the “dark moment” seemed contrived. Set in the Border Marches of Scotland and England in 1603, it’s the story of Scottish beauty Douglas Elliot and English Sir Lancelot Greystoke, who meet one night as she is climbing Hadrian’s Wall. He invites her to his keep where she gives him her virginity (not believable) and spies his antique mirror pendant and his prize horses. When she is caught stealing them with her brothers, he works to gain her a king’s pardon. Good story that had issues which could have been avoided if she’d only had more pages.

HEART'S DESIRE, by Jacquie D'Alessandro: 4 stars
D’Alessandro made the wise decision to keep the plot simple and thus had the pages to develop the emotional connection between the hero and heroine—and she did well. Set in England in 1838, it tells of William Lawton, an antique shop owner, who has loved Callie Albright his whole life. But when her sister’s husband became a duke, William thought Callie was out of his reach. That is, until she came into his shop and saw the mirrored pendant, which showed them together as a couple. It’s not a complex tale but is well written. She brings off the love story very well.

AND THEN THERE WAS YOU, by Jill Gregory: 5 stars
Gregory has done it very well, indeed. A tale of the Old West, set in Wyoming territory in 1877, it tells of two childhood playmates who come together again after life has changed them. It’s been 10 years since Gabe has seen carrot-topped Georgiana. The last time he saw her—and kissed her—she’d been 12. He wasn’t expecting to see her grown into a beautiful woman. But there is no place for such a woman in his hard life, or at least that’s what he thinks until one night in the barn. The glimpses in the mirrored pendent come later in this story but still done well. Good tale, well told and remarkably complete for a short story.

ALL THAT GLITTERS, by Sherri Browning Erwin: 4 stars
Set in Connecticut in 1978, it tells the story of wealthy young Elyse Fontaine who is obsessed with the desire for immortality, so much so she is willing to elope with some Norwegian guy who tells her he has a necklace that will grant her immortality. (Yeah right, and I have a bridge to sell.) At her uncle’s party, for kicks she runs off with a stranger named Bastian Blaze and his rocker band that has just looted the neighboring estate and is on the run. (OK, that makes her either dangerously reckless or stupid. Hard to like a heroine like that.) Blaze confesses in casual conversation that he has sold his soul. I have to give Erwin credit for a clever story even though I found it improbable (even for a paranormal, at least I think it’s a paranormal) and their love in less than 48 hours was a bit hard to believe. Still, it held my interest.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER, by Julie Ortolon: 3 and 1/2 stars
Set in 2011, this was my least favorite story of the six. It’s a contemporary (with a reference to ghosts) that involves software tycoon Luc Renard who (if you can believe it) is a handsome gaming nerd who drives a Porche and has the body of a god. (I haven’t seen any like that, but oh well). It’s been 10 years since he last saw Chloe Davis, the girl he had a crush on, but she has found his grandmother’s mirror pendant on the beach at Pearl Island where she works at a B&B and he’s come to collect it. Chloe thinks the pendant was from the ship of the privateer captain ghost, who along with his former lover, haunt the B&B. Frankly, unless you want a dump on gaming or Hurricane Katrina, you can skip whole passages. Didn’t interest me.

Lastly, I must commend the authors for dedicating their anthology—which brings together six women who have been friends for decades—to their friend, Kathleen Givens, who died suddenly a few years ago. I have read every one of Given’s enthralling Scottish historicals and given them all 5 stars. (They are on my Best Scottish/Highlander Romances List.) She was truly a wonderful author who left us a legacy of deeply moving historical romances. I don’t doubt for one moment that if she were with us today, there would have been seven stories in this anthology.