Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Review: Nadine Crenshaw’s VIKING GOLD - The Gold Standard of Viking Romances!

This is a superbly written story that will draw you in, I promise. This is one of the best Viking romances I have read. And very unusual in some aspects of the story.

A Norwegian princess, Aasa, the only daughter of Harold, a wealthy king, is 17 when the story opens. While promised to another, she meets Olaf, the son of a ruthless Viking lord who would kill Aasa’s father and brother and take her for his own. Olaf, sent to ask for Aasa’s hand for his father, falls in love with Aasa when he first sees her—and she with him. When he discovers they are lovers, Aasa’s brother separates them and sends Olaf and his ship back to the sea. Olaf experiences first a violent storm and then an attack of pirates that leaves him gravely wounded. He recovers slowly. Meanwhile, Aasa has been taken by Olaf’s father in a brutal Viking raid where everyone she loves was killed and her home burned. Believing Olaf is dead, Aasa becomes the unwilling bride and queen of Olaf’s father whom she loathes. She lives for revenge. She has a son, Halfdan (likely patterned after the real person, Halfdan the Black, the 9th century king of Vestfold and father of Harald I of Norway, the great unifier who lived from 850 to 933).

Crenshaw paints a vivid picture of Viking life and weaves an enthralling story that will keep you up late at night reading. I could hardly stand to put it down. Olaf is a wonderful hero, a strong Viking warrior with a softer side, who freely declares his love for Aasa. Aasa is at first a young maiden with few cares and a family that loves her. Then she becomes a woman with Olaf. Suddenly ripped away from all she loves, she becomes a strong and defiant queen of a man she hates, definitely a worthy heroine. The unrequited love experienced by Olaf and Aasa—for years—will tear your heart out. I thought these two would NEVER get together.

Crenshaw does not spare us the violence of the times, the hardships people at all levels endured nor the pagan rituals. But that is all a part of the rich tapestry she weaves so well. Written in 1995, this romance is as engaging as any you’ll read written today. I highly recommend this one for you Viking romance lovers!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Review: Nadine Crenshaw’s DESTINY AND DESIRE: A Romance The Deeply Affected Me

I only discovered this author in the last several months and since then I have devoured all her books. All are well researched, brilliantly written, amazing stories that will hold you in their grasp. But this one deeply affected me. I think it will you as well.

In 1915, San Francisco was a "city of dreams," a place of great possibilities, and the site of the great Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Three young women come to the city to find a better life: (1) 17-year-old Thais, very poor but proud and determined to bring about a better world. She has lost everything including her beloved sister to a horrible death she witnessed. But she holds onto her principles and convictions. Even the betrayal of the man she loves does not stop her. (2) 23-year-old Ellie, the wayward daughter of a Midwest preacher, who wants to be good but she loves to be bad. Perhaps the most tragic figure, she comes to San Francisco hoping for a fresh start but can't quite seem to achieve it. (3) Lastly, there is Garnet. At 35, she considers herself a spinster. Raised in Vancouver to be a lady, her parents never understood the shy girl, and embarrassed by her sometimes odd behavior, they isolated and rejected her. She stole the family jewels and escaped to San Francisco, wanting her own life. But since she had never learned to live, she becomes a recluse her only companion a cat. They all end up at the home of dear Mrs. Carter, a widow who is willing to take in girls who need a hand.

Crenshaw masterfully weaves these three stories together all the while immersing you in San Francisco's life and culture as the nation is on the brink of war with Germany. You will feel like you lived that year, I promise. There is so much research poured into the pages of this novel, but done such an alluring way, it’s captivating. I just can't say enough about it, though I will warn you, it has a melancholy side.

I haven't said much about the heroes, but they are certainly part of the story: three complex men with their own dreams and their own stories. How they come to know these women is fascinating.

It's a story of life's choices, of those who live courageously and those who live as cowards. A story of those who show kindness and those who do not. Those who would use others and those who would give. Those who choose love, though it is a difficult path, and those who choose a lesser life. I couldn't help mourn Ellie's terrible choices, choices you know she will one day regret; but I celebrated those of Thais and Garnet. It made me want to start over again, to try and do better. To think a romance author can so move a reader to bring about that kind of emotion tells you just how good Nadine Crenshaw is. I highly recommend this one.

Monday, February 27, 2012

One of the "Best of the Best" and Favorite Author: Nadine Crenshaw

I discovered Nadine Crenshaw when I was doing research (and reading) for my Best Viking Romances list. I was so taken with her novel VIKING GOLD, the first of hers I read, I ordered her whole backlist. They were all different and all wonderful—all worthy of 5 stars in my opinion. I simply devoured them.

Her first novel, MOUNTAIN MISTRESS, won the Golden Heart in 1987. I could not put it down and it would still sell well today. She wrote historicals from many time periods (see the list below). Her novel DESTINY AND DESIRE about three young women seeking their heart’s desires in San Francisco in 1915 profoundly affected me. She is one of those rare authors who consistently delivers keepers. I only wish she was writing today as I consider her one of the “best of the best.”

This week I’ll be featuring my reviews of some of her books I have loved.

MOUNTAIN MISTRESS (Golden Heart Winner, 1987) – the American West
CAPTIVE MELODY (1988) – 19th century American West
EDIN’S EMBRACE (1989) - Viking
SPELLBOUND (1990) – 12th century England
DESTINY AND DESIRE (1992) – San Francisco 1915
THE HIGHWAYMAN (1993) – 18th century England
VIKING GOLD (1995) - Viking
FIELDS OF THE SUN (1997) – 17th century England, Morocco and Brazil

For some reason, Crenshaw has not brought her backlist to eBooks so you’ll have to get them used. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Review: Eileen Dreyer’s BARELY A LADY - Well Written Regency Romance With Issues

This is a first in the Dreyer’s Rake Series (Barely A Lady, Never A Gentleman and Always A Temptress), and the author's first Regency romance. Dreyer writes very well and the language, descriptions and characters are true to the time period. A lot of research went into this one. For that she gets full marks. The story is set in an interesting time in history, has a good plot, a fair amount of suspense, great villains, and interesting and varied members of the ton for amusement. However there are issues that detract from what could have been a five star romance.

The story is set in 1815 in Belgium and England and begins on the eve of Waterloo with the hero, Jack Wyndham (who we later learn is the Earl of Gracechurch), facing battle as an officer on a mission. But why is he being addressed in French? We don't know. The heroine, Olivia Grace, is a fallen woman--Jack's disgraced ex-wife, who is working as a governess for a shrew of a woman just to make ends meet. While helping the wounded after the battle and searching the battlefield for a young woman's father, Olivia finds Jack lying wounded and dressed in a French officer's uniform. He treated her so badly she is tempted to leave him there but instead, she brings him back to the home of her new friend, the beautiful Dowager Duchess of Murther, Lady Kate. Jack wakes with amnesia--and thinks it's five years earlier and he is still married to Olivia. When the doctors tell them they must not tell Jack the truth or it may kill him, Olivia agrees to resume the role of loving wife. In fact, she does love the man who wronged her and threw her out of his home when she was pregnant and without a penny choosing to believe the lie that she was unfaithful to him, gambled and so on.

A fair number of secrets are withheld from the reader and some of the negatives relate to when and how those are revealed. (The "tell all" at the end is a bit overwhelming.) I found some of the characters' angst a bit repetitive. But the major issue relates to the hero and heroine. In many romances the hero is a cad at the beginning and then gradually realizes what a gem the heroine is and finally falls in love with her. I'm ok with that as long as his "conversion" is believable. In this one, however, Jack is a cad until the end (really a jerk in many places) and that didn't sit real well. When he does come around and realizes he loves her and always did, it is so dramatic it rings a bit false, particularly since he recalls at one point that it ("it" is not explained) was better with his mistress than with Olivia, his wife. (I really could not figure out why the author felt the need to put that in; wasn't it bad enough he had a mistress and didn't pine for Olivia?) The heroine is pretty much a saint. Even when she gets angry she never really loses her temper and in the end she forgives the bastard an awful lot.

Notwithstanding the negatives, the story held my attention, was well written and was correct in so many ways (history, language, customs, accents, etc.) it deserves a read. In other words, I can recommend it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guest Author Today and Tomorrow: Virginia Henley - Writing the Lusty Historical!

Thanks, Regan, for inviting me to be a guest on your splendid blog. I know you are passionate about historical romance and I wish you great success in your own writing career.

My passion is history--not writing books! I was born in England and went to school there. That's where I discovered my undying passion for history. Because I enjoy the research, I decided to make my stories blend authentic history with a sensual love story.

When you write a historical romance, the focus must be on the romance, and you cannot let the history overwhelm the story. It is a delicate balance, and I have found that the heavier the history, the more it has to be leavened with a strong, sensual love story. I seldom bend history to fit my story; rather I bend my plot and characters to portray authentic history.

My readers wouldn't want the history without the sex, and they certainly wouldn't want the sex without the history. So it's a one-two punch that satisfies the reader, and satisfying my reader is what my writing is all about.

I learned early in my career that sex sells.

When I wrote my fourth book THE RAVEN AND THE ROSE, my editor suggested I make each love scene longer and sexier. So when I finished the next one, THE HAWK AND THE DOVE, before I submitted it, I went over the manuscript and made each love scene longer and more sensual. When Romantic Times reviewed it, Kathe Robin warned the readers that it contained explicit sex scenes. It won a Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Elizabethan Romance, so when I started THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER I decided to make it as sensual as I possibly could, and managed to get NAKED and VIRGIN in the first sentence. Lol!

The setting is Medieval Plantagenet history, but the book is one long seduction from beginning to end. The consummation is shocking, and as a result the heroine resists the hero even more. Finally, he locks them both in her tower room for three days. They have lots of food, but no clothes--they are both stark naked for three whole days and nights.
Publishers Weekly reviewed it and said: "Only a hard core fan of soft core pornography could slog their way through this one."

I was so upset I got a terrible case of hives all over my thighs. However-----It jumped onto Waldenbooks Bestseller List and earned me a reputation for writing sexy books, and I've been writing them ever since.

I don't want to give first time readers the wrong impression. My books are often lusty and bawdy, but they are a million miles from being erotica.

A good romance should build slowly and climax with a bang! To allow the sexual tension between the hero and heroine to build slowly, I often use the technique of having two couples. The secondary couple is allowed to have sexual encounters, and this satisfies the reader while she is patiently waiting for the main event to take place. So I've used sisters, brothers, friends, and even parents for titillating sexual encounters. If the story takes place at a royal court, I often show the king, queen, prince, or princesses enjoying lovemaking.

I have always enjoyed writing about real historical people, but in my first books I only used real people of history as my secondary characters. After six historical romances, I was ready to use real people from history as my hero and heroine. All the characters in my book THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL are real people. Princess Eleanor Plantagenet is the heroine, and Simon de Montfort is the hero.

I wanted them to jump off the page--I wanted the reader to be able to see them, hear them, and even smell them! They were passionate people, real flesh and blood, and I tried to show their strengths, their weaknesses, their emotions, and their sex lives.
History does not tell us how Princess Eleanor's first husband, William Marshall, died. It only tells us that it came suddenly after the wedding of his sister to Prince Richard, Eleanor's brother. I was suddenly filled with inspiration. I decided to show William Marshall die in bed, in the middle of the sex act, while consummating his marriage to Princess Eleanor. Such a brilliant idea!

History tells us that sixteen-year-old Eleanor was consumed with grief and declared she would never marry again! Unfortunately, she swore this vow of chastity before the priests and bishops gathered at William's deathbed. Now this caused no end of trouble when Simon de Montfort, The Warlord, came to the royal court of England.
Physically, he was a giant of a man. So right off the bat there is a marked contrast between Eleanor and Simon that I can exploit. My imagination began to work overtime, and I have him wear a black leather sheath over his penis when he rides his destrier, (strictly for penile protection you understand) but at the same time, when he undresses, a male who is naked except for a black leather thong over his cock paints a rather titillating picture!

In my books, I use bawdy, provocative language. My characters swear and curse. I use good Old English words like cock, whoremaster, shit, piss, and vomit. I sometimes use the word 'manroot' but my fellow author Marsha Canham laughed at me so much, I stopped using it!

A few years ago, I wrote a free short story for the anthology LOVE'S LEGACY the proceeds from which were to go to charity. There was a big launch party in New York, where the publisher assigned various celebrities to read our stories aloud.
They asked Marla Maples, who was married to Donald Trump at that time, to read my story. She refused because I had the word VOMIT in it. So, the upshot was they asked Joan Rivers to read it instead, and she brought down the house!

My favorite book is A WOMAN OF PASSION, the story of Bess of Hardwick. This is another historical romance where all the characters are real people of history. I collected research material on Bess for about sixteen years before I felt competent enough to tell her story. Bess had four husbands, and I tell the intricate details of all four marriages. I had to fight tooth and nail with my editor to get it published, but the fight was worth it.
In my latest series of historical romances that I call Peers Of The Realm, I begin in the ever- popular Regency period. But I vowed to write about real historical people, and expose the real-life scandals of the nobility, which to me are far more interesting than fictional peccadilloes.

The first book, THE DECADENT DUKE, is the story of Lady Georgina Gordon, whose four sisters had all married dukes or earls. Her mother, Jane Gordon, was not only a political hostess and personal friend of Prinny, the Prince of Wales; she was also London's foremost matchmaker. She determined that Georgina should marry wealthy Francis Russell, the Duke of Bedford, who owned Woburn Abbey. When he died suddenly, Jane decided that her daughter would marry his brother, John Russell, the new Duke of Bedford. It caused a scandal and Jane Gordon was portrayed by the caricaturist Cruikshank, 'Chasing the Bedford Bull' with a lasso.

The second book in the series, THE IRISH DUKE, is the story of Lady Jane Russell, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, who married James Hamilton, the Irish Duke of Abercorn.

My editor liked these books so much, she asked if I would write a third book in the series.
THE DARK EARL is the story of Lady Harry Hamilton who falls in love with Shugborough Hall owned by dark and dangerous Thomas Anson, the Earl of Lichfield. This story tells of the scandalous amount of gambling that goes on in the nobility and how real fortunes are won and lost at the gaming tables.

I am presently writing the fourth and last book of this series LORD RAKEHELL. It is the story of Lord James Hamilton, heir to the Duke of Abercorn, who was lord of the bedchamber to Queen Victoria's son, Edward, Prince of Wales. The prince married Alexandra of Denmark and lived a debauched life.
The lives of these real people in history are far more fascinating than anything I could invent.

A few years ago I wrote a plantation novel set in the Southern States. I couldn't get it published because it is about slavery, and politically incorrect. So I decided to be brave and put it up on Amazon for download as a Kindle eBook. I loved researching the Civil War and walking the streets of Charleston doing research. I'm pleased to report that MASTER OF PARADISE has been well received by readers. I expected a bit of a backlash, but I'm happy that my readers have been kind to me. Marsha Canham designed the spectacular cover for MASTER OF PARADISE.

To make it in publishing, guts has got to be your strong suit. Talent helps, but in the end it's BALLS that count!

Monday, February 20, 2012

It’s Virginia Henley Week on my Blog! Beginning with Favorite Author – Master Writer of Historical Romance!

Virginia Henley is one of my all time favorite romance authors. Meticulous in her attention to historical detail and a master of lusty, deep love stories, she is one you don’t want to miss. Originally from England, she is a New York Times bestselling author of more than three dozen historical romance novels. Her first book, THE IRISH GYPSY, was published in 1982 and she is still writing today. (Thank God!) She is the recipient of more than a dozen awards, including a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award, a Waldenbooks' Bestselling Award, Affaire de Coeur, Rendezvous Award and a Maggie Award for Excellence from the Georgia Romance Writers.

In one interview, Henley said, “Writing a book is extremely hard work that takes me a whole year. Doing the historical research brings me pleasure. Writing the book usually brings me close to a nervous breakdown.” As a lover of historical romance who has written a novel and is working on others, I so agree. I love the history, and the research is like a treasure hunt, but getting the romance to tell the story is grueling work. Henley does it with great style. I cannot get enough of her books!

If you are looking for a complex plot reflecting detailed historical research and wonderful, lusty male heroes, strong heroines with a mind of their own and sexy, passionate love scenes, you’ve come to the right place. Henley’s well-told tales will grab you from the first page and will not let you go.
This week on my blog I’ll be featuring my reviews of some of her romances so you can see why I count myself as one of her fans. So far, I have read the ones with an “*” below and recommend them.

On Thursday, Virginia will be joining us as a guest on my blog. Come back then to see what she has to say about writing historical romance and ask her your questions. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Single Novels

• The Irish Gypsy (1982) – re-released as Enticed
• Bold Conquest (1983)
• Wild Hearts (1985)
• The Raven and the Rose (1987)*
• The Hawk and the Dove (1988)* 1988 Winner of the Romantic Times Award for
Best Elizabethan Historical Romance
• The Pirate and the Pagan (1990)* 1990 Winner of the Romantic Times Award
for Best English Historical Romance
• Seduced (1994)*
• Enticed (1994)
• Desired (1995) – Romantic Times’ Sensual Historical Romance Nominee
• Enslaved (1995)* (a time travel)
• Dream Lover (1997)* – Romantic Times’ Best Historical Romantic Adventure
• A Woman of Passion (1998)* (Based on the life of Bess of Hardwick)
• Ravished (2002) – Romantic Times’ Historical Romance of the Year Nominee
• Undone (2003)
• Insatiable (2004) – Romantic Times’ Best British Isle-Set Historical Romance
• Unmasked (2005)
• Wild Hearts (2011)
• Love and Joy (2011)
• Letter of Love (2011)
• Master of Paradise (2011, a Southern Family saga and new eBook)Medieval
Plantagenet Trilogy
1. The Falcon and the Flower (1989)* 1989 Winner of the Romantic Times Award
for Most Sensual
2. The Dragon and the Jewel (1991)*
3. The Marriage Prize (2000)*

If you like to read in date order, as I do, here are her Plantagenet (and beyond)
books in chronological order:

1. The Falcon and the Flower (1989) – late 12th century/early 13th
2. The Dragon and the Jewel (1991) – 13th century
3. The Marriage Prize (2000) – 13th century
4. The Raven and the Rose (1987) – 15th century
5. The Hawk and the Dove (1988) – 16th century
6. The Pirate and the Pagan (1990) – 17th century

And for Scotland’s side of the story…

Clan Kennedy Saga – 16th century

1. Tempted (1992)*
2. The Border Hostage (2001)*

De Warenne Family Saga

1. A Year and A Day (1998) – Romantic Times’ Best Historical Romance Nominee
2. Infamous (2006) – Romantic Times’ Medieval Historical Romance Nominee
3. Notorious (2007)

Peers of the Realm Series

1. The Decadent Duke (2008) – Romantic Times’ British Isle-Set Romance Nominee
2. The Irish Duke (2010)* – Romantic Times’ Historical Fiction Nominee
3. The Dark Earl (2011) – Romantic Times’ British Isle-Set Romance Nominee
4. Lord Rakehell (in progress…this is the working title)

* = ones I’ve read so far and recommend

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Review: Rebecca Brandewyne’s NO GENTLE LOVE - Captivating Around the World Romance!

If you're looking for a romance that feels like a trip around the world, this may be the one for you. It takes place in the years of the Regency, but is set in Ireland, England, France, Africa, India and China--and covers over 4 years.

It is divided into five "books." The first book is "The Emerald Isle" and basically sets up the story. It begins in 1812 as Morgana McShane, a red-haired beauty, is mourning the death of her father and trying to find work. While her father was the son of an Irish duke, he left home to marry her English mother, who is now dead, and never returned. Morgana despairs when she cannot find a job as she has little funds. Then she receives a letter from her grandfather, Lord Fergus McShane, the Duke of Shanetara, providing her money and telling her to come to Ireland. Unbeknownst to Morgana, her cousin, Rian McShane, Earl of Keldara, who has been watching her, sent the letter. Rian is a ruggedly handsome rake of the first order (he has many women but no intention to marry), and lucky at both gambling and business (he owns a ship). He is also the favored grandson of the duke so when the duke discovers what Rian has done, he goes along with it. In fact, the old duke likes Morgana and plots to trick Rian into marrying her. Though neither Morgana nor Rian want to marry, and clash each time they are together, they are wildly attracted to each other. When they are tricked into marriage, their relationship becomes a passionate battleground.

The second book is "A Tall White Sail" and begins as Rian sails from Ireland with Morgana not to return for 4 years. They travel to London where they become a part of the Haut Ton season of parties and events. Many of their friends are jealous of the two coveting the handsome man and his bride. And, of course, Rian has enemies.

Books 3-5 are "No Gentle Love," "The Bitter Memories," and "The Shadows," and take place in France, Africa, India and China. Through a series of terrible events, Morgana and Rian become separated (more than once), and each ends up in the bed of another. So, be prepared, this is not your average historical romance.

Brandewyne has done a superb job giving us the historical setting and details of the era, not to mention the political and social environments of Ireland, London, France, Africa, India and China. She gets full marks for her research. Her dialog is witty and the story absorbing. At times I loved Rian and Morgana and at other times I hated them both. Yes, all right, he WAS a brute, denying his feelings for Morgana from the beginning and making her suffer. Still, he forgave her much. She could be a wet noodle and then a brat, and engaged in some highly questionable behavior. While this romance won't appeal to everyone, I found the story of these two passionate, difficult people fascinating and loved the adventures all over the world. And, since it's romance, I could hang onto the knowledge that there would be a happy ending.

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Review: Virginia Henley’s THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL: Enthralling 13th Century True Love Story

In the words of the author, “The story of Simon and Eleanor is one of the great love stories of the thirteenth century,”—a story which Henley masterfully brings to historical romance, a tale of two passionate people and the historical events that swirled around them.

Many women never find one true love; Eleanor Plantagenet was blessed with two, though one, William Marshall, was much older and perhaps more a father figure. The book is divided into those two love stories and each is well told and very precious. Much of this is actual history, but Henley weaves fictional romance in so wonderfully, you’d never know it wasn’t fact.

This is the second in Henley's Plantagenet trilogy (The Falcon and the Flower, The Dragon and the Jewel and The Marriage Prize). When King John died, his oldest son, though still young, became King Henry III. Henry had a brother, Richard of Cornwall, and a sister, Eleanor. This is the story of the three siblings, and particularly Princess Eleanor and her second husband, Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester.

When she is nine, Eleanor is wed to William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (the son of the great William Marshal and equally as honorable). Eleanor has loved and admired William her whole life. The fact he's 30 years her senior is not a negative for her. William does not take her as a wife in truth until she is 16, wanting to allow her innocence as long as proper. Meanwhile, King Henry takes as his queen an impoverished and ambitious French Provençal, also named Eleanor, who is jealous of the king's sister and thinks to diminish her. Others are plotting the demise of William Marshall for his influence with the king. On the night William would finally claim his bride, he suffers an attack and suddenly dies. Poison is suspected. Eleanor is devastated at his death, and in front of the clergy takes a vow of chastity and perpetual widowhood. A year later, the great War Lord, Simon de Montfort, enters her life. Once he sees her, he decides Eleanor is the woman he must have.

There is no question Henley knows how to write historical romance. Her story reflects the weak king that was Henry III and the constant fights he had with his nobles who were concerned he was allowing England to be run by foreigners and unworthy men. Henley’s attention to detail in dress, food and the environment is meticulous. She is so good I simply devoured this novel. Like her others, this is a complex, well-written, lusty tale with splendid characters, a strong feisty heroine, a drool worthy hero (two of them!) and an interesting plot. You won't be disappointed, I promise.
Henley will be a guest on my blog next week and I’ll be featuring her list of books as well, so come back for that; it promises to be a special time as she tells us how she writes those lusty tales!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s ONCE IN A BLUE MOON - Heart Rending Story of a Great Love!

If you've read KEEPER OF THE DREAM, you're already a fan of Penelope Williamson. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, which was her next book after KEEPER is equally wonderful. It's the story of unrequited love that refuses to die no matter the tests it must endure.

The story was inspired by the love of Williamson’s grandparents who were kept apart for 6 years, but then loved for another 65 years. Here’s what she had to say about them:

“It was in 1902 that Elizabeth and Peter first met and fell in love. But Elizabeth’s father forbade the match for six long years, until Peter could prove himself good enough for his daughter. Together at last, they had nine children and sixty-five wonderful years as husband and wife. They died in their nineties, within two years of each other, as much in love as they had always been. A love that wouldn’t give up…”

The story of ONCE IN A BLUE MOON begins in 1815. Jessalyn Letty, a wild flame haired girl raised by her grandmother on the Cornish highlands above the sea, is a young woman of character and a brave heart that never varies throughout the story. I loved her for that. When she is still a tall gawky 16 year old, she meets McCady Trelawny, then in his early 20s, and youngest brother of the infamous Trelawny noblemen known for living lives of debauchery and dying young and in debt. McCady was wounded while becoming a war hero defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He returns home to Cornwall with a vision for a steam locomotive that can carry passengers, but he is too poor to invest much in the idea. His cousin, Clarence, who could be his illegitimate half brother, joins McCady in the venture, but stands in McCady's shadow determined to one day gain great wealth that will bring him the status he craves and the woman he wants--Jessalyn. But once Jessalyn meets McCady, her heart is lost forever to the handsome dark haired rogue. Her love will be tested by years of separation and much more.

This is a compelling story and very well told with many twists and turns, all naturally woven in with great characters and well developed details that make you feel like you're living it. You will laugh (her 16 year old antics are quite incredible), you will cry as you endure her years of loving and losing McCady.

You simply must read this...and trust me, you won't be disappointed! It’s a 5 star novel from the queen of unrequited love.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Review: Alexandra Ripley’s SCARLETT – If You Only Saw the Movie…you must read this sequel to Gone With The Wind’s great love story!

After seeing the movie Gone With The Wind for the umpteenth time and once again being disappointed there was no happy ending (sorry you classic lovers, but the ending where Scarlett says she’ll find a way to win Rhett back just begs for the rest of the story!), I was glad there was a sequel even if it had to be written by someone other than Margaret Mitchell.

SCARLETT satisfies the romance lover’s need for the ending we crave. It tells us what happened to Scarlett and Rhett after he left her, after she declared her love for him and he told her he didn’t give a damn. And it's a very well told tale.

The story begins in 1873, as Melanie, Scarlett’s lifelong friend, is buried and the mourners standing around gossip about Scarlett, saying she’s “all business, and no heart.” When Atlanta society shuns her, Scarlett is left very much alone. It’s the bane of a strong woman’s existence, that people think she doesn’t care and hate her for it when, in fact, she cares very much though she doesn’t allow herself to show it. Of course, in Gone With The Wind Scarlett was selfish and spurned Rhett’s love when offered. And when she finally realized she loved him, it was too late. He believes she only wants him because he doesn’t want her. But stay tuned…Scarlett is about to grow up.

Where you wanted to slap Scarlett in the movie, now you will want to hug her as she triumphs over trials that would break any other woman on the way to learning how to love.

For much of the 823 pages, the story is told through Scarlett’s perspective. Though Scarlett shows great kindness to others and pursues Rhett because she genuinely loves him, her motives are often misunderstood and others, quick to judge, reject her. Society snubs her and Rhett is cold, even cruel. His only aim is to get out of the marriage, describing her as a drug that will destroy him. (It was easy to see Clark Gable saying those lines.)

The book is divided into four sections, each finding Scarlett in new place:

Lost in the Dark (Atlanta)
High Stakes (Charleston)
New Life (Savannah)
The Tower (Ireland)

Ripley takes us back to Scarlett's roots and paints a compelling picture of Ireland, its people and their struggles, with wonderful characters, rich dialog and emotional scenes. We mourn the lost history of the O’Hara family as Scarlett seeks to regain her family’s land. But we cheer Scarlett as her incredible intelligence and courage allow her to rebuild, at least in part, what was lost.

If you are used to the pace of a normal historical romance, this story may seem a bit meandering. (There are whole chapters where Scarlett and Rhett never encounter each other.) Still, I found it a very satisfying love story and it kept me reading late into the night (two nights in a row!). When the “black moment “ came, it was the blackest I’ve ever experienced. But the ending is a sweet reward. The book is a treasure. I recommend it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I Learned About Love From Reading Romance Novels

There is much to be gained from reading romance novels—more than just a good story to curl up with on a rainy night. For those of us who love the sweeping historical sagas, there can be lessons in love as well as history. If I ever write a book about this, the list below may well be my chapter titles (I’d have illustrations, of course). For now, here’s the skinny version of what I have learned about love from reading romance novels:

1. Love is worth fighting for.

2. Love is worth waiting for.

3. Loving someone means being vulnerable; sometimes it means pain.

4. The most difficult person may be the most perfect for you.

5. Men of great character are secure enough to choose a strong, successful

6. In great strength is great gentleness when accompanied by unselfish love.

7. When a man is jealous and protective, it may mean he cares.

8. Absence really does make the heart that loves grow fonder.

9. Making up often requires asking forgiveness.

10. To know all is to forgive much.

11. We are all a product of our beginnings so it is important to tell our story.

12. A single conversation can reveal the heart.

13. Life’s challenges require us to change and to grow if we are to love deeply
and unselfishly.

14. It is important to say “I love you” with words as well as actions.

15. Making love with the person you love can be more than physically satisfying;
it can be a beautiful expression of love.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It’s Valentine’s Week on my blog!

Yes, it’s finally here! The romance lover’s excuse to celebrate love! I’ll be presenting reviews of particularly romantic love stories and some insights about what I learned about love from reading romance novels. Come back each day for more good stuff!

Let’s get started with a love poem from Cynthia Wright’s SURRENDER THE STARS to remind you what it’s all about:

True love’s the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven:
It is not fantasy’s hot fire,
Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly;
It liveth not in fierce desire,
With dead desire it doeth not die;
It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie,
Which heart to heart and mind to mind
In body and in soul can bind.

--Sir Walter Scott

“Love” defined by Virginia Henley in DREAM LOVER:

“Love is a journey from the first blush of physical attraction
to a marriage of souls”

And a quote from Henley’s THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL where William Marshall reflects on his young wife, Eleanor Plantagenet:

                        “He pulled up a stool and watched her for the sheer pleasure of it.
She gave him so much, he could never give enough back. So this was love
then—wanting to give only pleasure to the beloved; constantly searching
your mind for love tokens that would bring a smile to her lips or a sparkle
to her eyes. He deeply regretted it had come so late in life, but since his heart’s
desire was Eleanor who was so much younger than he, it could have been no
other way. He was grateful it had come at all.”

Lastly, the definition of “heartfire” from Zack in Penelope Williamson’s HEART OF THE WEST, who loved his brother’s wife and knew he couldn’t have her:

"A heartfire, Clementine my darlin', is when you want someone, when
you need her so damn bad, not only in your bed but in your life, that
you're willin' to burn--".

 My post for Tuesday, the 14th: "What I Learned About Love From Reading Romance Novels!”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Review: Judith McNaught’s PARADISE: Possibly the Best Contemporary Romance! And Best McNaught!

This is a five star romance from beginning to end--no weak spots anywhere. I prefer historicals and after reading some of McNaught’s, and loving them, I decided to try her contemporaries. (I have since read all of hers!) 

This is the story of Meredith, a young wealthy heiress to a department store chain based in Chicago and the son of a poor family. Matt has brains and a fierce determination to accomplish the ultimate success he wants so badly. On one July 4th, they meet and find passion and young love unexpectedly. Though neither is really ready for it, they are forced to marry only to be separated by circumstances and deep hurt that keeps them apart for 11 years. By that time, he has become the head of a corporate empire and she is the interim President of her family's flagship store. Both are wounded souls who have nothing but disdain for each other, believing each has betrayed the other. Ah, but true love will conquer all--and in this well told tale, it does.

I loved Matt, a hero to die for: handsome and rugged, never wavering in either his love for Meredith or his willingness to fight for what he wants--including her. I liked Meredith's courage and her willingness to "go on" despite what life has thrown at her to make something of her life. And I loved her softer side that added compassion to a successful businesswoman's strength. The fact that she looked like a "young Grace Kelly" wasn’t bad either.

This story has great depth, wonderful characters, meaningful scenes and naturally intriguing action. I laughed and I cried. It is definitely a keeper, one to be re-read and enjoyed again and again--a truly excellent romance. I did not want it to end. You will not be disappointed!

Here's the whole Paradise Series--the rest are excellent, too:

1. Paradise (1991)
2. Perfect (1993)
3. Night Whispers (1998)
4. Someone to Watch Over Me (2003)
5. Every Breath You Take (2005)
6. Someone Like You (formerly entitled: Can't Take My Eyes Off of You) (coming sometime in the next few years)

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Review: Judith McNaught’s A KINGDOM OF DREAMS: A Medieval Scottish Love Story that will tear at your heart!

This is effectively a prequel to WHITNEY MY LOVE and UNTIL YOU, the other two in the Westmoreland Dynasty trilogy, as it tells the story of the first Duke of Claymore.

Set in 15th Century Scotland and England, it tells of two Scottish sisters of noble blood who are abducted by an English warrior earl (the Wolf) in service to King Henry after battles at Cornwall. The sisters are abducted by the Wolf's brother from the abbey they were sent to by their father, the Scottish laird of Clan Merrick, who has only pragmatic uses for daughters (marrying them off to enhance clan relationships). The heroine (one of the sisters), Jennifer Merrick ("Jenny"), is also a countess and instantly attracts the Wolf. 

As a girl of 17, Jenny was betrayed by her clan, based on lies told about her by a jealous half sibling. She feels (correctly) that the clan doesn't want her, but even so, she still tries to do right by them. She has a creative and rebellious yet humble spirit, and yes, a strong will and a courageous heart. What's not to like about that? The Wolf, having captured the girl, is drawn to her spirit, which is evidenced by her successful attempt to escape and draw a blade on him, feats no one else has accomplished. Having taken her virtue, he is willing to marry her but never gets around to telling her before her clan rescues her. When Jenny and the Wolf are forced to marry to assure peace between Scotland and England, the Wolf is bitter, believing Jenny duped him.

Judith McNaught writes exceptionally well. She serves up witty dialog, humor, sexual tension, great character development and a great plot. I initially rated it 4 stars because of some issues I have with the hero, Royce Westmoreland, the Earl of Claymore (the "Wolf"). However, upon a second reading, I gave it 5 stars. 

Royce appeared at times to be such a cad that it was difficult to finally see him in a good light when the great turnaround came. First, when he realizes he wants Jenny, he shames her in front of his men by making his lust and dishonorable intentions apparent. Then, he takes her virginity without so much as a care for robbing her of her honor. Although he eventually decides he'll marry her, it's only after he assumes she'll be his mistress. Perhaps that is the way men thought about women then, but looking through our 21st century eyes it is maddening. Royce shames Jenny in the eyes of two countries when it is not only clear he's ruined her but then disavows any interest in her. He fails to see that he owes her an apology or any reparation. In fact, he failed to see her side of the whole affair until the end. For many, many pages, I just hated him. And when his own people, reflecting his sentiments, call Jenny "the Merrick slut," I just wanted him to suffer.

His turnaround from lust to love just didn't ring true, but upon my second reading I decided that perhaps he did love her from the beginning and was not consciously aware of his own feelings (the author suggests this late in the book with reference to he scene in the glade. Still, it's hard to justify his treatment of her.

In any event, whether you agree with the negatives or not, it's a wonderful romance and Judith McNaught's writing is superb. It will definitely tear at your heart!

Here's the whole Westmoreland Dynasty Saga:

* A Kingdom of Dreams (1989)
* Whitney, My Love (1985)
* Until You (1994)
* "Miracles" in A Holiday of Love (1995/Oct) and in Simple Gifts (1997)
* Someone Like You (formerly entitled: Can't Take My Eyes Off of You) (upcoming 2014)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Favorite Author: Judith McNaught – A Pioneer in Historical and a Standard-Setter in Contemporaries…truly wonderful romance!

Judith McNaught is the author of over a dozen historical and contemporary romance novels with 30 million copies in print. Many have been New York Times bestsellers. Her first book, Whitney, My Love, which she had trouble selling at first, was finally published in 1985, after McNaught had proven herself with two successful published novels. 

Her early novels were unique: They introduced the hero first, rather than the heroine; and unlike the typical Regency, her stories were intensely sensual and witty. Whitney, My Love captured the elements of the traditional Regency romance, but its long length, sensuality, and emotional intensity were more often associated with the traditional historical romances, which were rarely set during the Regency period. Despite the many years it took McNaught to sell the story, it was very successful, and its success influenced other editors to solicit manuscripts written in the same style.

At the beginning of McNaught's writing career, she was one of a very few authors writing for the historical romance market. By 1985, however, the genre had exploded. Despite her established success with historical romances, in 1990 McNaught switched genres to write contemporary romances where she was also a huge success. Paradise is one of my all time “keepers.” All her books tend to be fast-paced, with strong, loyal, compassionate and intelligent heroines. You might find some of her early heroes in the historicals unduly harsh on the heroines; I did. But I still loved them.

  • 1985 - Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Best New Historical Romance, Whitney, My Love
  • 1986 - Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Harlequin Superromance, Tender Triumph
  • 1987 - Affaire de Coeur Golden Pen Certificate, Once and Always
  • 1987 - Affaire de Coeur Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Romance, Once and Always


Westmoreland Dynasty Triology

·      A Kingdom of Dreams (1989)
·      Whitney, My Love (1985)
·      Until You (1994)

The stories continue in these:

·      "Miracles" short story in A Holiday of Love (1995/Oct) and in Simple Gifts (1997)
·      Someone Like You (a contemporary formerly titled: Can't Take My Eyes Off of You) (upcoming 2014?)

Sequels Series

·      Once and Always (1987)
·      Something Wonderful (1988)
·      Almost Heaven (1990)


Single novels (her first)
  • Tender Triumph (1983)
  • Double Standards (1984)

Paradise Series (I see the first three as a trilogy as they are more related than the others)

·      Paradise (1991)
·      Perfect (1993)
·      Night Whispers (1998)
·      Someone to Watch Over Me (2003)
·      Every Breath You Take (2005)
·      Someone Like You (formerly titled: Can't Take My Eyes Off of You) (upcoming 2014?) 

Foster Saga

·      Double Exposure in A Gift of Love anthology (1995)
              ·      Remember When (1996)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Review: D.B. Reynolds’ DUNCAN: Finally! The story of the Sexy Vamp Who Has Stood at Raphael’s Side, Next to the Throne of Power!

When DB Reynolds first read my review of RAPHAEL she told me that I described her book better than she did (!). I was highly complimented as I think she is a wonderful new author and writes exceptionally well. I hope you find this review helpful. DUNCAN is the most recent of her Vampires in America series and tells the story of Raphael's main man. Here it is:

We first met Duncan in RAPHAEL. He was the right hand vamp—the Lieutenant—for the most powerful Vampire Lord in America, Raphael. More handsome than his Sire, Duncan is a tall, blond Southern gentleman vamp who, as a human, almost died on the Civil War battlefield in 1862. Made a vampire by Raphael he has served his Sire for 150 years. But now, with Raphael’s blessing, Duncan is to gain his own territory, the Capital Territory, or as we know it, Washington DC and environs. To do so, Duncan must destroy Victor, the reigning Vampire Lord. In the process, Duncan uncovers a nest of debauchery and evil that sickens him. He has barely begun to clear out the mess when Emma Duquet, a young lawyer who works for a congressman, shows up at his door looking for her roommate, Lacey, the only family Emma has known since they were children together in a foster home. Unfortunately, Lacey was a part of Victor’s “special parties” where human girls were sexually abused for the entertainment of powerful Washington men.

This story is superbly written, exciting and sexy as we get to see more intimately the vampire with the golden looks we have come to love. Duncan is a strong, possessive Alpha male, but he bares his heart to Emma without a backward glance. It is wonderful how Reynolds draws the two of them together. A love story without a hiccup. Don’t get me wrong. There’s lots of action, suspense and many “cliff hanging” moments. It’s just that their love is never in doubt and that was wonderfully refreshing.

While I most often read historical romance, I also enjoy paranormal when it’s of the highest quality (JR Ward, Black Dagger Brotherhood; Kathryn Smith, the Brotherhood of the Blood; and Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series come to mind). This series, Vampires in America, is truly one of the best I’ve found and I highly recommend it. I’ve read (and reviewed) all five out now and highly recommend them as fast paced, enthralling paranormal romance. 

Each of the books tells the story of a Vampire Lord and his/her mate. The first two tell the story of Raphael and Cyn and should be read together:

Here’s the list:

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