Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Review: DB Reynolds’ RAFAEL - Superb, Exciting, Enthralling Vampire Romance

He’s tall, dark, rugged and, oh yes, he’s very sexy. He’s the most powerful Vampire Lord in America. You definitely want to read this one. It’s paranormal romance at its best. Simply superb. A Vampire Lord who takes no prisoners and a fiercely independent, feisty heroine who knows how to shoot well and mix it up with the bad boys. Add in lots of action, interesting plot twists, fast pace suspense, sexy love scenes and excellent dialog and you have a winner. Personally, I was delighted this first in the series takes place on the West Coast (Malibu!) for a change and features a tall female lead (I was beginning to get a complex with all those petite women heroines!). Trust me; you will not be disappointed with this one. I promise.

Raphael is a Vampire Lord who has chosen as his headquarters the beautiful California coast—Malibu in particular. While he has an army of vampires at his command, when a gang of human killers kidnaps the one female vampire he'd give his life for, Raphael believes he needs a human investigator and calls upon one respected by the vampire community—Cynthia Leighton. Cyn is smart, tough and sexy, a former cop who wanted her own business. She has carved out a niche as an investigator for vampire customers. When Raphael asks for her help in tracking down the kidnappers, Cyn's happy to accept. But she soon realizes she is wildly attracted to the Vampire Lord and afraid of falling under his spell—and it’s clear he wants her. As they fight Russian bad guys and some rebel vampires, Cyn and Raphael find themselves drawn to each other. Neither can resist.

Reynolds creates a wonderful mythology where vampires live among us as recognized members of society. The author makes good use of flashback scenes, integrating them into the story seamlessly. (Well done!) And there is enough technology and weaponry for any macho geek to be pleased. I highly recommend this series.

My only caution to you is this: Unlike most romances, this first book doesn't have a happy ending (it will tear at your heart). So, you should buy book #2, JABRIL, at the same time so you get the rest of Cyn and Raphael's story. To my way of thinking, the two make up one book.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And now for something entirely different…Vampires in America! A new series by DB Reynolds

Yes, I know, this is a site devoted to historical romance. While I thrive on that genre, I also enjoy paranormal when it’s of the highest quality (JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series; Kathryn Smith’s The Brotherhood of the Blood series; and Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series come to mind). The series I’m featuring this week, Vampires in America, is truly one of the best I’ve discovered and I highly recommend it.

DB Reynolds was a new writer of romance in 2009 and her debut novel, RAPHAEL, was the first in this series. It drew a rave review and 5 stars from me on Amazon. Reynolds’ mythology is a winning one: the vampires live among us integrating into society while guarding their privacy. They are ruled by regional “Vampire Lords” (historical romance lovers think dark pirates!) who maintain “blood houses” where more than willing humans can give their blood (without harm) to vampires while enjoying the pleasure that goes with it.

In the first in the series, we meet Raphael, reborn a vampire in the Old World hundreds of years ago—and not by choice. Deciding he would rather build his forever life in the New World, he came to America while it was still a young country. Since then he has risen to become the most powerful Vampire Lord in America reigning over the Vampire Council. I was enthralled by this first book and couldn’t wait to read the rest. I’ve since read all five of the books out now and highly recommend them. They are fast paced and full of action with sexy Vampire Lords and strong, feisty heroines. (Vampires only mate with humans in this mythology so we all have a chance!) And, for us historical romance lovers, there’s even a bit of history as the vampires who are hundreds of years old recount their beginnings.  

At the Romantic Times Convention last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Donna and getting to know her. We are both from the West Coast and we are both tall blondes (Donna’s first heroine, Cyn, stands 6 feet!). At the convention, Donna won the Best Paranormal award. It was well deserved.

I’ve listed the books in the series below. The first two books tell the story of Raphael and his mate, Cyn, and should be read together. Raphael and Cyn also appear in the other stories, which is good since they are a most amazing and attractive couple.

1. RAPHAEL – Western Territories/Malibu - 2009
2. JABRIL – Southwest Territory/Houston - 2009
3. RAJMUND – Northeast Territory/New York City - 2010
4. SOPHIA – Canadian Territories/Vancouver - 2011
5. DUNCAN – Capital Territory/Washington DC - 2011

And, coming soon, LUCAS – Plains Territory/South Dakota Badlands

This week I’ll be featuring reviews of some of the books in the series. Check them out!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guest Author Today and Tomorrow: Cynthia Wright, "Bringing the 70’s Bodice Ripping Alpha Male into the 21st Century"

Thanks to Regan for inviting me to be the guest today and tomorrow on her wonderful blog!  I’m honored to be here.

Once upon a time, in 1975, I was a young wife at home with my baby daughter. Although I’d always been a voracious reader of romances, especially those by Georgette Heyer and Daphne DuMaurier, everything changed one day when I spied THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER on the bookstore shelf. Oh my gosh!  Kathleen E. Woodiwiss threw open the bedroom door and nothing would ever be the same. After lusting over heroes Brandon and Wulfgar (THE WOLF AND THE DOVE), I moved on to Rosemary Rogers’s classic SWEET SAVAGE LOVE.

In those days, I was generally accepting of the behavior of those alpha heroes. Was it because the stories were set in other times, when men and women didn’t know about “acceptable” behavior in a relationship?  Was it because those days preceded the Women’s Movement and my own consciousness hadn’t been raised?  After all, I had cut my romantic teeth on GONE WITH THE WIND. When I blazed through that book at 14, all I wanted was my Rhett Butler fix, no matter how “inappropriate” his behavior was! Reading Woodiwiss, I gave all her heroes a pass. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of them!  Sarcastic, harsh, strong, witty, courageous, and incredibly sexy, these alpha males took life and bent it to their will… and that included the heroines who couldn’t help loving them. Not until I met Steve, in Rosemary Rogers’s books, did I find a hero who ticked me off so much that I threw SWEET SAVAGE LOVE across the room and decided to write my own book. That was the beginning of CAROLINE – and career writing historical romances.

I know I’m not the only author from the last century who has resurrected her historical romances as e-books. One of my colleagues refers to us as “troglodytes.” I’ve had to adjust to a lot of things that weren’t around when I published CAROLINE in 1977: Facebook, Twitter, e-readers, blogs, and author websites. Last May, when I decided to dust off my 13 novels and send them to be scanned and formatted as e-books, I didn’t give much thought to revisions. I just loved the idea of those books that are part of me being enjoyed by readers again.

Alexandre Beauvisage, the hero in CAROLINE, was quite the alpha male. His behavior was frequently “unacceptable” and “inappropriate” by today’s standards. But when I created him 35 years ago, I was crazy about the guy!   Imagine my consternation when I received the newly formatted .doc file last June, with an opportunity to edit it before its release as an e-book… and I met Alec all over again. It was like being in a time machine. Sometimes he was blatantly sexist and even verbally and emotionally abusive to the heroine. Never mind the fact that he takes her virginity and tells her to forget about it and he’ll help her find a respectable husband. It was a weird feeling to realize that I could make changes in a book that has been in existence since 1977. What to do?  Leave him alone – or soften his edges to fit the 21st century?

On one hand, I know there are a whole lot of readers who love alpha males. They come right out and say so in their reviews of CAROLINE and my other bestseller, SILVER STORM. (There aren’t many heroes more rakish than Andre Raveneau…and don’t most readers love him and want to be Devon?) On the other hand, there is a 2-star review for the paperback version of CAROLINE with this outraged title: “Alpha Male to the Nth Degree!” The reader went on to list Alec’s sins, and the way Caro seems to let him walk all over her. When I saw it, I thought that it might have the reverse effect and actually attract readers…

As I spent more time with Alec in CAROLINE and Raveneau in SILVER STORM, I warmed to them all over again. Sometimes I would gasp or cringe a little when I read things they said or did (that I had written 3+ decades ago) – and yet, I came to realize that part of the appeal of those books is an opportunity for 21st century women to release modern constraints and travel to another world, in another time, with a man who is powerfully male. And since it’s just a fantasy, we can let go and just enjoy! I realized that it would be wrong to try to change or soften my alpha heroes, even if I could. I could almost imagine them rising up to protest any effort I might make to change them!  However, there were a few moments in CAROLINE and SILVER STORM when I instinctively felt that the hero had crossed an invisible line and I took the opportunity to rescue him from himself in small, seamless ways.

For instance, near the end of CAROLINE, there is a love scene in the woods where Alec literally tears all the buttons off the jacket and vest of Caro’s new riding habit (overcome by passion, of course!). Good grief - he ripped her bodice! Then he commented, “I suppose I’ll have to replace this habit. It’s a good thing I can afford it!” (Never mind that they are married and it should be their money.) In the revised version, he tears the buttons open, not off. And when he makes the remark about buying her a new habit, it’s because he sees that a couple buttons are missing, not all of them!

While editing SILVER STORM for e-release, I read a scene where Raveneau is having his way with an old girlfriend who also is close friends with the heroine. (Of course, he is only doing this because he can’t face his love for Devon….) He doesn’t just kiss her, but does a little bodice-ripping that I felt went just a little too far. In the “author’s cut” e-version, Raveneau still behaves like a jerk, but he doesn’t go quite so far. SILVER STORM, which is rife with pretty “unacceptable” behavior by the hero, has always been my bestselling title… and of course, he sees the light by the last page.

The most controversial element in those 70’s historical romances was the “rape” scene, wherein the hero takes the heroine by force and then she goes on to fall in love with him. Many newer readers of the classic historical romances say they just can’t get past those scenes. (I did have scenes in both CAROLINE and SILVER STORM that involved some sexual abuse by villains and I was relieved to have a chance to take those scenes down a notch. If readers compare the paperback versions of those two novels to the “author’s cut” e-books, they’ll find the biggest changes in those passages.) There weren’t scenes of forced sex between the hero and heroine in my books. Even in the 70’s, that was a line I instinctively didn’t want to cross, and I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision about whether to soften those scenes for the 21st century.

I am dying to know what you think! How do you feel when you read a great historical romance from the 70’s? Should those alpha heroes be left alone, their bodice-ripping ways undisturbed? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favorite Author and Guest Blogger: Cynthia Wright and her Wonderful Historical Romances!

Cynthia Wright launched her career in 1977 with the publication of CAROLINE, when she was twenty-three. She went on to write 12 more beloved and acclaimed historical romances set in Colonial America, Regency England, Medieval England & France, and the American West. Seven of these, the intertwined Raveneau and Beauvisage Novels, have special places on the keeper shelves of readers around the world.

Wright’s novels have won many awards from Romantic Times and Affaire de Coeur. After taking a break from writing for several years, and following the path many successful romance authors have taken, Wright is now back as an "indie" author, publishing all 13 of her novels as eBooks (newly edited and with sexy new covers). She will also release a new Raveneau novel, TEMPEST, as an e Book in 2012.

On this Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 25-26, Cynthia will be guest blogging on my website, so come back then! You can leave her a comment or ask her a question. She’ll be telling us how she wrote a “bodice ripper” for the 21st Century!

The Raveneau Series:

1. SILVER STORM (1981)
3. SILVER SEA, originally BARBADOS (1995)
4. TEMPEST (coming out 2012)

The Beauvisage Series:

1. CAROLINE (1977)
2. TOUCH THE SUN (1978)
3. SPRING FIRES (1983)
4. NATALYA (1991)

Should you want to read them in order of occurrence, here’s the intertwined Raveneau and Beauvisage series in chronological order:

1814 - NATALYA
1818 - SILVER SEA (originally BARBADOS)
1903 - TEMPEST (coming to eBooks in 2012)

St. Briac Series: (16th century France, England)


Western America to England:

WILDBLOSSOM (1994), coming to eBooks in 2012


BRIGHTER THAN GOLD (1990) - set in 1864-65 in California. Coming soon to eBooks!

CRIMSON INTRIGUE (1981) published under the pen name Devon Lindsay, set in Washington DC in 1814. It will be published as an eBook under Wright's name for the first time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Review: Amanda Scott’s Abducted Heiress - A Highland Hunk, a Strong Heroine and the Little People!

This is the first in Scott’s Secret Clan series (see list below). Set in 16th century Scotland, it tells the story of Molly Gordon, the Maid of Dunsithe and heiress to an estate in the Borderlands (and supposedly a fortune). Her father, Lord Gordon, was murdered when she was five and that very night she and her baby sister, Bessy, were abducted away from their mother to be raised apart, in Molly’s case on the Isle of Skye. Bessy died as a babe, leaving Molly alone. Now 17-years-old, Molly is to be taken away again, this time to be the ward of Sir Finlay Mackenzie (“Wild Fin”), a handsome Highland chief who has the power to barter or marry her by order of King Jamie. Little does Fin know there was fae magic at work (the Secret Clan). Fin has his hands full when he realizes that Molly, a spirited a young woman with a mind of her own, has no intention of obeying his commands.

What I loved: (1) the household spirits, or “little people,” their speech and accents captured wonderfully well by Scott. It added a whimsical touch and an interesting depth to the story that did not detract from what would otherwise be a more typical Highland romance. (2) A strong but imperfect hero (Fin is an independent, drool-worthy Highlander, but often times harsh with Molly, not valuing her opinion, or indeed, even conceding she is entitled to one). (3) A strong heroine, just the kind we like. Molly is for the most part, independent and resourceful and does not hesitate in killing her enemies.

A few negatives: (1) The book really needed a map of Skye and environs with the real and fictional holdings noted, particularly since it’s the beginning of a series. The descriptions were just not adequate and had my visual mind in knots. (2) Molly’s expertise in the longbow seems highly improbable, notwithstanding words by the author to the contrary. A woman, especially a slight woman like Molly, could not pull a longbow (it takes 150 lbs. of pressure), and the bow would be nearly as tall as she is and not subject to being slung over her shoulder as some scenes suggest.

Still in all I found it entertaining and can recommend it.

The Series in order:

Abducted Heiress
Hidden Heiress
Highland Bride
Reiver’s Bride

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Review: Connie Brockway’s McClairen’s Isle Scottish Trilogy

These three were my first by Connie Brockway. They form her McClairen's Isle trilogy (THE PASSIONATE ONE, 1999; THE RECKLESS ONE, 2000, and THE RAVISHING ONE, 2001). The trilogy is a clear winner, an enduring Scottish historical, and one for the “keeper” shelf. I’m reviewing all three today. I recommend you read this trilogy in order as the books are interrelated and one story follows the other

Important backstory for the trilogy:

The books tell the story of a family of two brothers and a sister, Scottish by their mother Janet McClairen, and English by their father, the charming, selfish, ruthless Ronald Merrick, now earl of Carr. Many years ago, Merrick fled his debtors in London to come to McClairen’s Isle in the Highlands with an aim to take it from the McClairen clan. He came to woo the clan but ended up winning and wedding the daughter, Janet. She gave him two sons and a daughter and then mysteriously died falling off a cliff. Later, through treachery, Merrick gained McClairen’s Isle from the English after betraying the Scottish to help the English at Culloden. His wife’s relatives wanted revenge and went after him. Instead they captured his sons. The Scots didn’t want to kill the sons (they were half Scottish) so they were sent off to prison in France. Ash was later freed when his father paid the ransom but Raine was left there to rot. Ash lives to free his brother, having promised his mother on the day she died to protect Raine. Merrick never had much time for his half Scottish sons though he dotes on his daughter, Fia. Now, years later, Merrick, Lord Carr has run through several rich Scottish wives, each one dying young. His one dream is to return to London in glory.


In 1760, Ash is summoned by his father for an errand: to fetch to Scotland his ward, Rhiannon Russell, from England where she’s been living for the last 10 years. While Ash loathes his father, he is willing to undertake the task for the money it will bring, money that will buy Raine’s freedom. Rhiannon is haunted by nightmares of having been hunted as a young girl by the Butcher of Culloden, Lord Cumberland, and his dragoons, and has no desire to leave her place of refuge at Fair Badden. She is betrothed to wed a handsome Englishman, and while neither is in love, it is a good marriage for Rhiannon and will provide a continued safe haven. And then comes Ash who stirs her passion…

Brockway writes well; her words, phrases and dialog capture the time period. She has wonderful analogies and tag lines that put you in the moment (“It had been waiting for her return for a decade, like a witch’s unwanted familiar.”). Her language is wonderfully descriptive so that you see each shadow cast by the moonlight and hear each cricket (“The winnowing wind whispered a spurious greeting and the chill mist stretched milky fingers up to brush her legs in mock obeisance.”).

It is a well-woven plot, the story is believable and the passion and conflict between the hero and heroine convincing. The hero is one of those darkly handsome men, noble in heart, who has become jaded by life’s experiences (“…his eyes were dark, his wrists scarred, and his soul as tattered and patched as a gypsy’s cape…”). He never looked for nor expected to find love. Rhiannon is hiding from a past that frightens her and still has nightmares of being chased by Lord Cumberland’s dragoons. She wants only peace—like an opiate. But Ash does not bring peace. Instead, he brings a passion neither wants to acknowledge.


This second installment begins in 1760 (same as book #1), and tells the story of Ash’s younger brother, Raine, who has been in prison in France for 4 years. His father the evil Lord Carr won’t ransom him because he looks like his mother who Carr loved—and rumor has it—killed. Raine escapes from prison through the assistance of a young woman who uses him expecting he’ll be recaptured. But he isn’t. Raine plans to return to McClairen’s Isle and find his mother’s jewels and start a new life. He has no plans to confront or even see his father. When he arrives at the castle, whom should he find among the 100 or so guests but the young woman from his time in France? Favor McClairen has disguised her red hair by dying it black. Her plan, and that of her clan’s is to regain McClairen’s Isle by her marrying Lord Carr and then, when he meets his end, she’ll inherit (in Scotland, a woman can inherit land). She claims to be Favor Donne, Tom Donne’s sister (both she and Tom are actually McClairens). Raine recognizes Favor for who she really is—the girl who saved his life 4 years ago. He is honor bound to do whatever he can to help her. Both are hiding secrets. Both are in disguise (he tells her his name is Rafe).

Like the first, this one has an intriguing plot, the story is believable and the passion and conflict between the hero and heroine convincing. Brockway continues to provide a well written story with lines that put you in the moment (“The clock struck the witching hour but the revelry wound tighter, like a watch in the hands of a feckless, spoiled child.”). Her language is amazingly descriptive (what I wouldn’t give to be that good with adjectives!). For example: “Raine’s gaze traveled through the crowd until he found Favor. Yards of vibrant jonquil yellow swathed her upright figure, the light-killing blackness of her dyed hair as coal dust against her white bosom.”

Like his brother, Ash, Raine Merrick is a dark-haired, handsome hunk though he bears a few more scars. Favor is unusual but very attractive in appearance with her black brows and red hair. She has a kind heart but knows she has a debt to pay as her clan holds her responsible for many deaths when she saved the Englishman. So she is forced to play the role that will hopefully restore the castle to her clan.


At 15, Fia fell in love with Tom Donne, a Scot who had attached himself to McClairen’s Isle, no one aware he was the heir, a McClairen, and a former Jacobite. Tom spurned both Fia and her family, calling them evil. It was a revelation to Fia, but she took it seriously and it changed her view of her father and her life. Fia became a seductress while having no man. She developed a plan to become independent of her father and later, goes to London at the invitation of some friends for her first Season. Without her father knowing, she eloped with an old, wealthy Scot thinking when he died, she’d inherit. But her husband failed to tell her he had two children—heirs. When her old husband dies, she continued to live at his Scottish home, Bramble House, until the day her father showed up and told her he owned it. Ever manipulating her, Lord Carr still intends to wed her to the highest bidder. But Fia will thwart that plan by spreading rumors she is a jezebel. Then Tom Donne comes to London. He loathes Fia and what her family has done to so many and, to remove her influence form his best friend, he decides to abduct her and take her to McClairen’s Isle, which he now owns and is rebuilding.

You have to feel for poor Fia. She has been played by so many for so long. Inside, she is a girl with a compassionate heart and great passion, as Tom will discover.

It is a well-woven plot, the story is believable and the passion and conflict between the hero and heroine convincing. Once they go to Scotland, both Tom and Fia change. She drops her mask and becomes more the innocent lass she is; he becomes tender in response. Without giving away too much, While Tom had a weakness for Fia, it was just that of a man in love.

While not as good as either the first or the second in the trilogy, I did like this one. It ties up a lot of loose ends and truly finished the story of McClairen’s Isle. We hear about Fia’s brothers and their marriages, learn of Carr’s deep perfidy, and finally, all comes right in the end.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s HEARTS BEGUILED - Pre French Revolution Romance - Superb!!

You can get this book used through Amazon and I wholeheartedly recommend it as well worth the time and trouble, Kindle and iPads notwithstanding. Think of it as early steam punk. 

I always know when I pick up an historical romance by Penelope Williamson that I'm going to have an adventure, feel my heart break at some point and be left with a belief that for some of us at least, true love can be found even if it's costly. This one is no different. In addition, her attention to historic detail, her wonderful ability to paint vivid word pictures and her ability to make you live through the lives of her characters are gifts only rarely found in romance fiction.

This story takes place in France, in Paris and its environs, at the dawn of the French Revolution in the 1780s. It's the story of Gabrielle who is poor but endowed with noble blood and beauty all men admire. At the tender age of 16, she loses her young husband and her mother on the same day. Pregnant and alone, she runs from her husband's father the duc de Nevers who would take her child and banish her to a cloister--or, should she not want that, prison. She escapes from him and his lackey, a creepy lawyer named Louvois, and manages to barely scrape out a living until she is rescued from life in the slums of Paris by a kind pawnshop owner who becomes a father of sorts to her. Through her work for him, she meets the dashing and mysterious Maximilian de Saint-Just, a brilliant scientist and bastard son of the comte de Saint-Just, who has turned his apartment into a science lab and is blowing things up as he seeks to discover a fuel for his hot air balloon. In addition to all that, Max has devoted his life to casting dirt on his father's name and is involved in spying for the cabal, an underground network of smugglers out for their own profit. But when Max meets and falls in love with Gabrielle, he wants to be a different man. They will face many challenges and both hide secrets that will tear at their love--all while the country is plunging into revolution and Max is uncovering new scientific discoveries. Wow!

It's a riveting tale that will sweep you away to 18th century France--an important time in history. And, since I promised to find them for you, I can also say it's a keeper!

Below is a list of more of her historical novels. Many of them are on my “Best” lists. I highly recommend them.  

* Beloved Rogue (May 1988)
* Hearts Beguiled (June 1989)
* Wings of Desire (August 1989, written under the name Elizabeth Lambert)
* A Wild Yearning (1991) - Winner of RITA Award
* Keeper of the Dream (April 1992) - Winner of RITA Award
* Once in a Blue Moon (May 1993)
* Heart of the West (April 1995)
* The Outsider (July 1996)
* The Passions of Emma (September 1997) - Nominated for RITA Award

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Reader’s Pet Peeves: The 10 that set me on edge every time!

It was bound to happen, right? You knew I’d finally get around to a list of things that really annoy me in reading historical (and other) romance. I’m not the only one who has these complaints, at least based on the Amazon reviews I read. Hopefully this will help authors who want to please their readers avoid some pitfalls.

Join me if you have a pet peeve I failed to mention. Here are my top 10:

1.     A cover that has nothing to do with the story. I realize the authors have little to do with this so it’s really a gripe at the publishers. But it is nonetheless valid. Examples abound: A handsome pirate with black hair and dark eyes on the cover, but the hero has blond hair and silver eyes! A Victorian costumed woman on the cover of a Restoration romance.  A Highlander in a plaid kilt centuries before they wore kilts. A heroine described as “plain and plump” but the cover shows her a beauty with a devastating figure. Please. Why is it the publishers think readers don’t notice? Well, we do and it’s irritating!

2.     A title that doesn’t describe the story or cheapens it. I know the publishers are selling romance like the cable outfits sell sex, but when they pick a dime store novel title just because it sounds like a book that is selling well, or they think the words “seduced,” “ravished,” or “in bed with” will make us buy it, to me it cheapens a serious historical romance. And don’t use words in the title that aren’t related to the story, like “pirate” if there’s no pirate in the romance (yes, I encountered one like that!), or “seduced” when there’s no seduction. The authors I’ve talked to hate it when publishers do this, though they have little say about it. That is sad, really. I have heard this from several authors, who I will not name for fear of getting them in trouble with their publishers, but still. Do the publishers think we readers would like the books any less if they used more honest, serious, worthy titles? (Like perhaps the one the author prefers?)

3.     Not enough emotion to engage mine. Witty dialog, clever storylines and great hooks may be preferred by today’s publishers, but if you can’t engage my emotions, if you can’t make me care, I won’t be rating the book 5 stars. And it takes time to build characters, to tell me why I should love or hate them. Only some authors get my 5 star emotional rating: Penelope Williamson (a two-Kleenex box author), Kathleen Givens, Nadine Crenshaw, Marsha Canham, Betina Krahn and Iris Johansen, to name some of them.

4.     Simpering, whiny or weak heroines. Some people might like the weak, simpering females. Not me. I like my heroines with backbone. Not snippy, mind you, but courageous. Inspire me with heroines who think, women who won’t be dictated to, who rise to meet life’s challenges and you just might make me a fan. A good example is Sarah in BROKEN ARROW by Judith James. She is one of the best heroines out there: strong, compassionate, a unique individual who swims against the tide—and a woman who fights for her love. Another is Fallon in PRINCESS OF FIRE by Heather Graham (aka Shannon Drake), who refused to be cowered in the face of William the Conqueror. Or, there is Rachel in Penelope Williamson's THE OUTSIDER. My reviews are replete with other examples. There is no quicker way to turn me off to a story than to make the heroine a whimpering, whiny female. (I could give you examples of those, too.) And it doesn’t make up for it if later in the story she suddenly becomes a Valkyrie. Not buying it. Mind you, it’s ok if she cries for a valid reason. People do. But if she is constantly teary eyed and whimpering, or snippy in the extreme, I won’t read another by that author.

5.     Contrived plot elements. I’m reading along, enjoying a great romance when suddenly, wham, out of nowhere something happens that just doesn’t fit—and isn’t believable. I know it’s romance, but it has to be natural…not contrived just to get the story moving in a certain direction. This is really important and can turn me off to an author quicker than anything. I have found that authors who engage in this do so again and again. I won’t mention names but suffice it to say these are the ones I’ve given 2 or 3 stars to on Amazon; and they are not on my “Best” lists.

6.     A research dump. I really appreciate it when the historical romance reflects the author’s thorough research. I can always tell and I give them high marks for it in my reviews. But don’t dump everything you learned into long passages in the story. If the heroine is a potter, I don’t need the encyclopedia version of everything there is to know about pottery—or fossils, or painting, or stone masonry, etc. I don’t need to go back to school. If I want more details, I’ll look them up. I can give you many authors who incorporate their research very well. A few whose names come to mind are Heather Graham (aka Shannon Drake), Nadine Crenshaw, Marsha Canham, Elizabeth Stuart, Meredith Duran, Judith James, Kathleen Givens, Cynthia Wright and Penelope Williamson.

7.     Moral lectures disguised as romance. Yes, I know poverty existed in the past centuries (as it does now), and I don’t mind if this is reflected in the story, but don’t lecture me on the importance of being socially responsible. Don’t lecture me on the evils of slavery, natural healers that aren’t really witches, the benefits of vegetarianism, being charitable to the poor, etc. I get it. Reflect it, but don’t moralize. If you feel strongly, write an editorial, not a romance.

8.     A character acting inconsistently. You know this one…a smart, savvy heroine who suddenly does something really stupid. In once romance I read, the heroine, who had been pretty smart up until this point, suddenly goes along with an abduction. Doesn’t scream, doesn’t fight. Nada. It was so disappointing it threw off my whole feeling about the story. Or, consider the hero who has always been a noble, forthright guy, who suddenly believes the worst about the heroine with no real evidence or provocation. Ugh!

9.     Manufactured sexual tension. It’s gotta be real. It should come naturally out of the circumstances and the lives of the characters, but in some 2 and 3 star romances, it comes out of thin air. That will sour me on a story quicker than anything. You know what I’m talking about: arguments that should never have happened; misunderstandings any normal human being would clear up with one sentence—those things! I give highest marks to an author who has an intriguing plot that naturally develops and holds my attention, one who does not throw a wrench into the works merely to separate the hero and heroine.

10.  Love scenes that don’t match the characters or are the same in every one of the author’s books. If the heroine is an innocent virgin and suddenly she is seducing the hero with moves like a practiced courtesan (and especially the word “Please” as a euphemism for “do it now”), you just lost me. The love scene has to match the people involved and their experience. If you want a courtesan’s moves, then make the heroine an experienced woman of the night. A failure to match the love scene to the characters can be subtle. If the heroine is insecure and her past reflects bad experiences with men, she isn’t going to jump into bed with the hero and take the initiative in lovemaking. No way. It must seem like the kind of love scene these two people would share. And, please don’t make all your love scenes the same in every book you write!

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Review of Meagan McKinney’s TILL DAWN TAMES THE NIGHT- A Pirate Keeper...a Dragon to Love!

Ah...you know when you've found a romance that sweeps you away...one you will read and re-read. This one has it all: superb writing, intriguing plot, a tortured but strong hero and a heroine who won't give up. Oh yes, did I mention pirates?

Set in 1818, this is the story of Aurora Dayne, raised in an orphanage where she stayed on to become a teacher (think Jane Eyre), until the day she received an offer to become a lady's companion in Jamaica. Desperate for a new life, she leaves behind her past and strikes out for adventure, never knowing the invitation came from a pirate named Vashon. Vashon was the heir to Blackmoor but his twisted half brother sought to kill him and steal the title. At 13 Vashon was sold into white slavery in Algiers and that experience forged the dragon that lives within him. He has grown wealthy as a merchant seaman though he is not above piracy. He has lured Aurora to the Caribbean because her father, a thief, gave her the key to finding a cursed emerald he stole, the Star of Aran--an emerald Vashon's half brother is desperate to have. 

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

A great story of lost innocence, unrequited love and passionate moments that won't be denied...all set aboard ship and turquoise Caribbean isles. You will not be disappointed in this historical romance. It has everything one could ask for.

However, I must say that one could have done without the author's disparaging words early in the story damning evangelical Christianity and the message of William Wilberforce (who was truly a great man who fought slavery all his life). It seems the nonbelievers among us can't resist the opportunity to cast Christians in a bad light and display their bias. It was also unnecessary to the story. But still, I'm giving the author 5 stars for what is otherwise a wonderful historical romance. I'm just choosing to overlook her obvious bias.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

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. On board, a young pirate leader, Drake Jordan, attempts to take her to his cabin when she cries out to her real father, Keils Cauldron who is standing on deck. 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 also 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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Review: Heather Graham Pozzessere’s A PIRATE’S PLEASURE: Powerful pirate love story!

This pirate story introduced me to a wonderful trilogy (The North American Women) that is a part of the Cameron Saga (see full list below). I recommend reading them in order though they can also be read as “stand alone” novels. This one is set in 18th century America (Virginia) and the Caribbean. It captivated me from page one. I never lost interest and neither will you.

It's the story of Lady Skye Kinsdale whose father has ordered her home to Virginia to marry a man he's promised her to from birth--a man she's never met. She's coming home aboard her father's ship from England where she has been at a finishing school. Before she leaves England, and unknown to her, her father has her wed by proxy to the man, Lord Roc Cameron. On the way to Virginia, her ship is seized by pirate One Eyed Jack, a ruthless killer. But before he can have her, another pirate, the Silver Hawk, retakes both vessels and holds Skye captive. Skye, who was trained to use a sword by the finest swordsman in Europe, can hold her own against the pirates, and does. The Silver Hawk ("Hawk") admires her courage...and her golden haired beauty. But Hawk confuses Skye. On the one hand he is ruthless, rough and domineering and on the other he is gentle and honorable and holds her through her nightmares (she fears darkness). Unaware she's been wed to Lord Cameron, Skye finds herself attracted to "the pirate scum" (her words). And so the adventure begins...and it is a real adventure. A keeper!

The plot is intricate and has a major twist I did not see coming. I could not put it down and it kept me up late at night reading. Once it was finished, I had to read it again--immediately. You won't regret buying this book. Having now read the others in the series, I can say they are equally good. Heather Graham's writing is superb. The story pulls you in and does not let you go. There are no slow spots as the action and the characters become very real. The sexual tension permeates the book and is quite believable.

Here's the Cameron Saga:

The North American Women trilogy:


The Camerons in the Civil War trilogy:


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Best Pirate and Privateer Romances—Love on the High Seas!

Who doesn’t love a good pirate or privateer saga? All that capturing, swashbuckling and romancing on the high seas—Oh yes! My blood is tingling just thinking about it. While there are lots of pirate and privateer romances out there, not all are great ones. Here’s my current list of those I have rated 5 stars on Amazon. They are all truly excellent. Some do not have pirates but in each case, part of the story takes place on the high seas.

·      A Pirate’s Pleasure by Heather Graham Pozzessere
·      The Game by Brenda Joyce
·      Pirate’s Angel by Marsha Bauer
·      Magic Embrace by Jennifer Horsman
·      Across a Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham, and the sequel, The Iron Rose
·      The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole
·      The Pirate and the Pagan by Virginia Henley
·      Bound by the Heart by Marsha Canham
·      The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham
·      Treasured Embrace by Marsha Bauer
·      Fields of the Sun by Nadine Crenshaw
·      Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright
·      The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley
·      Till Dawn Tames the Night by Megan McKinney
·      Desire in Disguise by Rebecca Brandewyne
·      Broken Wing by Judith James

While not as good as those listed above, I can also recommend these I’ve rated 4 stars:

·      My Wicked Pirate by Rona Sharon
·      The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries
·      Master of Seduction by Kinley MacGregor
·      Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
·      The Hidden Heart by Laura Kinsale

I’ll spare you the long list of those I’ve rated 2 and 3 stars; you can see my reviews of those on Amazon.