Friday, March 30, 2012

Favorite Author: Kathleen Woodiwiss, A Pioneer in Historical Romance, and a Classic Author of Keepers

Her debut novel, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, was initially rejected by the hardback publishers as being too long at 600 pages. Strong-willed woman that she was, Woodiwiss did not shorten her novel. Instead, she submitted it to paperback publishers. Avon purchased the novel and laughed all the way to the bank. Published in 1972, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER sold over 2.3 million copies in its first four years of publication, and is credited with spawning the modern historical romance genre. It was the first romance novel to fling open the bedroom door--the door that has never closed. It’s a wonderful story and anyone who has read it will likely agree.

Her next novels, THE WOLF AND THE DOVE and SHANNA were equally wonderful. In fact, anything she wrote before the mid 1980s garnered 5 stars from me. But beginning in the late 80s, her writing, though still enjoyable, was not quite equal to her earlier works (in my opinion). But you can't argue with results. There are now more than 36 million copies of her books in print and they are enjoyed by fans of all ages. SHANNA is on my Ultimate Top 10 list of favorite historical romances.

I love the fact that Woodiwiss met her Air Force officer husband at a dance when she was only sixteen, and they married the following year, on July 20, 1956. They were married until he died. We lost her to cancer at age 68 in 2007, the same year her last book, EVERLASTING, was published. (EVERLASTING, along with THE WOLF AND THE DOVE, is on my Best Medieval Romances list; THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER is on my Best Bodice Ripper list; and ASHES IN THE WIND is on my Best American Patriotic Romances list.)

Her books:

Birmingham Family Saga Series

• The Flame and the Flower (1972)
• The Elusive Flame (1998)
• A Season Beyond a Kiss (2000)

Related short stories:

• "The Kiss" in THREE WEDDINGS AND A KISS, 1995
• "Beyond the Kiss" in MARRIED AT MIDNIGHT, 1996

Single Novels

▪ The Wolf and the Dove, 1974
▪ Shanna, 1977
▪ Ashes in the Wind, 1979
▪ A Rose in Winter, 1981
▪ Come Love a Stranger, 1984
▪ So Worthy My Love, 1989
▪ Forever in Your Embrace, 1992
▪ Petals on the River, 1997
▪ The Reluctant Suitor, 2002
▪ Everlasting, 2007

New Review: Kathleen Woodiwiss’ THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER – Captivating Tale and a Classic Keeper!

This was Kathleen Woodiwiss' first romance, published in 1972, and it's still a gold standard. She set the bar so high that few can come close even now. It's a timeless, wonderful story rich in detail and emotion. You will love it.

Set in 1799, it tells the story of the beautiful young Heather Simmons who was raised a nobleman's daughter, but when her father gambled away all their money at his grief over her mother's death and then died while she was still a young girl, Heather is sent off to live with poor relations who abuse her (think Cinderella). She believes she is given a chance to escape when her older cousin, a successful merchant, comes to call, claiming he can get her a job at a girl's school in London. But she soon discovers that the lecherous old man has something entirely different in mind. When he dresses her up as a whore, Heather flees only to find herself on the docks of London where she is seized by Capt. Brandon Birmingham's men who are looking for a doxy for their captain's pleasure for the night. Brandon, an American merchant sea captain from the Carolinas, is delighted with what he believes is a gorgeous young prostitute. Before he hears her story, he has his way with her only to realize he has just deflowered a virgin. He tells her she needs to be resigned to becoming his paramour, but she will have none of it and escapes. (I just loved that part…and her courage in doing it!) And so the tale begins.

It's an amazing story and takes us from a poor farm in England, to a merchant ship sailing across the Atlantic to the American south of wealthy plantations. Woodiwiss paints vivid word pictures of life on the farm and the adventure at sea. It is a tale of great love coming from a rude beginning. I liked Woodiwiss’ prose and masterfully drawn characters. If you read historical romance, you MUST read this one that started the modern historical romance genre.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Review: Shirl Henke’s CAPTURE THE SUN – Superb Western Classic with an Educated Half Cheyenne Hero!

First published in 1988, and set in Montana in the late 1800s, CAPTURE THE SUN was unique because it involved a half-breed Cheyenne hero who had been well educated in the finest Eastern schools. Hawk Sinclair straddled two worlds, not feeling at home in either, until he found his destiny in the arms of a beauty from St. Louis he called Firehair.

Carrie Patterson was raised in St. Louis and had loving parents until they died and she was forced to live with her aunt and uncle and treated more like a servant. Her aunt resented her beauty for her daughters paled in comparison. When Carrie turns 18, her aunt buys Carrie’s fiancé for one of the plain daughters and Carrie is forced to marry the aunt’s cousin, a cruel old rancher named Noah Sinclair. He takes her to his ranch in Montana, the Circle S, where she learns he’s had two wives before her, including his first who was a beautiful Cheyenne girl who gave him his only son, Hawk Sinclair, an educated half breed who will never inherit the ranch if Carrie gives him a white heir. Carrie comes to hate Noah even as she is falling in love with his son, Hawk.

My first reaction to the story was one of revulsion as the beautiful young heroine, Carrie Patterson, was forced into marrying despicable Noah Sinclair. Noah’s frequent, mechanical and brutal exercise of his “marital rights” made me cringe. He was the wrong man for the right woman; he took her innocence and I hated him for it. Carrie was a bit disappointing at first as she resigned herself to the role of broodmare. But as she becomes more familiar with life on the Montana frontier, she gains strength and the respect of all around her.

I have become a huge fan of Shirl Henke. She serves up richly detailed Western romances that will keep you up late at night, I promise. This is another winning tale of hers from the old West with an intricate plot reflecting thorough research. The story captivated me from the beginning; I couldn’t put it down. Her pictures of ranch life and the challenges of the Cheyenne as the white man encroached onto their way of life are vividly detailed. Her dialog is rich, capturing the personalities of her characters, even their speech, which varies from the wise Cheyenne chief, to the old Texas cowhand, to the self-righteous citizens who were so quick to judge. I highly recommend this one! It’s the first in the Cheyenne trilogy:


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Review: Lisa Gregory’s THE RAINBOW SEASON - Redemption Romance Texas Style

First published in 1979, THE RAINBOW SEASON was a pioneering novel in the early years of modern historical romance. But you’d never know it. It reads like one that could be written today.

Set in a Texas farming community of strong Methodist values, likely in the late 18th century, it tells of 25-year-old Sarah McGowen, who secretly pines for her sister’s husband and has an active fantasy life. She wants her own family but has rejected suitors she doesn’t love. The McGowen family is rich in values and customs of shared warmth. Nothing like the family of Luke “Digger” Turner with his abusive, alcoholic father. Sent to prison for 5 years for a rape he didn’t commit, Luke returns at 23, poor and believing he is hated and feared by all. But Sarah’s father doesn’t believe the tales and gives him a job working their farm. Luke proves himself with hard work and revels in the small comforts the McGowen family shares with him while he fantasizes about having Sarah for his own. But he thinks of her as a “Sunday School woman,” too good for a man like him.

It’s a simple story set amidst the simple life of Texas farmland, but it is very well told. It is also a story of redemption as Sarah shows Luke the good man he is. She was the less pretty sister who wanted everything her sister had; he was the poor white trash who always did wrong. But together, they were very good. I recommend this one.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Review: Rosemary Rogers’ SWEET SAVAGE LOVE – A Worthy Classic That Influenced the Genre of Historical Romance, But More Savage than Love

This was Rogers’ first novel and it became a best seller and an all time classic in modern historical romance. Her writing is superb and her storytelling truly excellent. Published in 1974, it was also one of the first to throw open the bedroom door and include subjects like rape and violence against the heroine, all woven into an intricate plot. Set in the late 1800s in the American West and Mexico (during the reign of the Austrian who became Emperor Maximilian), it’s a fast-paced, moving story that will keep you up late at night reading. However, and this is the reason for 4 not 5 stars, there are some parts in this story where the hero and heroine go through such horrifying trials, I just had to skip over them. I’m not overly sensitive but we are talking gruesome!

Ginny Brandon was the French convent-raised daughter of an ambitious US Senator from California who didn’t mind putting his wife and daughter at risk to smuggle gold into Mexico to support the French military working for Maximilian. On a wagon train from San Antonio to California, Ginny and her stepmother will face more than the hardships and Indians of the Western plains; they will face the schemes of men who want to make sure Maximilian’s French troops never see that gold. One of those men is Steve Morgan, a half-Mexican former Union Army officer who is working undercover for the US government. Morgan has few scruples and almost no morals, taking the women he wants when he wants them. Though he speaks French and lived in Paris for a time, he also lived among the Comanches and has become a fast gun, so he can take care of himself. Though Ginny, an innocent red-haired beauty, has many suitors, she is drawn to the handsome Morgan who becomes the scout for her father’s wagon train. And Morgan is all too willing to take advantage of the girl’s innocence.

With superb storytelling, Rogers gives us a feel for the politics of the time and the life of the Mexicans and those Americans who chose to live in the West while she weaves a complex tale of a difficult, often combative, relationship between two strong-willed people. Much of the novel is told through Ginny’s point of view as she and Steve ride over the land, fleeing as escaped fugitives (she as his prisoner and plaything) and then live in Mexico. Ginny is a courageous heroine though at times seemingly weak in moral fiber. Steve is a man deeply affected by his past, his heritage and his many compromising decisions. Though he has some virtues (he is courageous and loyal to his friends) he is very selfish and hedonistic and treats Ginny most badly.

I was 2/3rds of the way through the story before there was an indication Steve felt more than lust for Ginny. Even then he behaved the cad. It’s hard to consider him a “hero” under those circumstances. (The real hero seemed to be his grandfather!) And unlike most romances that have a happily ever after at the end, while the end is happy, it is not really the end of the story of Ginny and Steve. Their story continues in DARK FIRES. The whole series is listed below:

Morgan-Challenger Series:

Sweet Savage Love (1974) (Steve and Ginny)
Dark Fires (1975) (Steve and Ginny)
Wicked Loving Lies (1976) (Dominic Challenger and Marisa)
Lost Love, Last Love (1980) (Steve and Ginny)
Bound by Desire (1988) (Steve and Ginny’s daughter)
Savage Desire (2000) (Steve and Ginny)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Review: Roberta Gellis’ BOND OF BLOOD – A Medieval Classic…a Keeper to Treasure!

This is a classic from 1965 that all historical romance fans should read. Set in 1147, it is intricately detailed, starkly realistic and historically accurate, reflecting great research. So much so it’s like watching a movie in your mind. It’s the story of Leah, daughter of the Earl of Pembroke and Cain, Lord Radmor, a Welsh marcher lord who, by heritage, was more Welsh than English. Though Cain was sworn to King Stephen, Cain recognized the country was ill served by the weak monarch. The tale begins as the country’s noblemen are all plotting to enhance their own coffers with the news that Henry of Anjou, Maud’s son, may be coming to England to take the throne. Henry is only 16, but already looks more the ruler than Stephen.

Cain is a scarred man, both inside and out, who didn’t want to marry but did so at the urging of his father to make an heir. What he got in the bargain with the scheming Earl of Pembroke were rich lands and a 15-year-old beauty (though he doesn’t see her as such), who is amazingly giving and wise beyond her years. Cain is just possibly the most selfish, sometimes brutal, cad ever to grace a romance novel, whereas Leah is so good it’s hard to believe. Beaten by her father and isolated to the women’s quarters, intelligent Leah has few expectations for a husband. She is pleased when it seems Cain isn’t as cruel as her father, the earl. Leah’s father hates the Radmors but consented to the marriage in order to gain the Radmor lands by assuring the death of both father and son; his ambition is to become the ruler of Wales. But the earl’s attempts to take Cain’s life keep coming to naught as Cain outwits him, all the while straddling the fence between his oath to Stephen and his reason telling him Henry is better for England.

It is hard to believe that years before Kathleen Woodiwiss’ THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, a romance like BOND OF BLOOD was sitting on the shelf. In fact, this was not even Gellis’ first historical romance; KNIGHT'S HONOR was published in 1964.

Take my word for it; this is not one to pass by. Intriguing, captivating and absorbing. If you’re tired of the light offering of so much of modern historical romance, try this one. There’s lots of the really good stuff here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s FOREVER AND A LIFETIME: Handsome Swiss Hero, Strong Heroine and a Great Story!

This is my second by Horsman (my first was MAGIC EMBRACE and I gave it 5 stars); and it’s another wonderful story. (The rest of hers are on my “to be read” shelf.) This one has an amazingly complex plot set in an interesting time in history with well-developed characters, sexy love scenes and a hero, who like the one in MAGIC EMBRACE, is very virile, and at times a cad. This one also features the usual cats, vegetarians and mystical aspects that seem to characterize her romances.

What I like about Horsman’s stories is that they are richly detailed and give me that intense feeling that keeps me turning pages. I like her strong heroines, too (none of those whiny females!).

Set in Switzerland in the late 15th century when the country was a loose confederation of independent small states called cantons, it tells about the time of Charles the Bold, Lord of Lucerne, who came to power in 1467. He is seeking to grow in power, but Bern sees this as a threat. In this story, our heroine, Lady Nichole Lucretia, Charles’ sister and a great healer, is being forced by her brother to marry the Duke of Uri to gain Charles another army. Nichole judges the duke to be an unjust and cruel man, and loving her people and being a headstrong and intelligent young woman, she refuses. Charles imprisons her in an abbey to pressure her into complying but she isn’t there long when Jonpaul the Terrible abducts her. Jonpaul is the hero of the Burgundy War, the leader of the Basel Alliance—and their enemy. The Alliance wants to thwart Charles’ plans and they know defeating Nichole’s marriage will further their goal for peace. Jonpaul takes Nichole to his castle where she tries to resist the man even as she seeks escape. Theirs is a relationship of great passion and great conflict, as two strong personalities come together.

There is great history, great passion and great deception—deception that is believable when it comes from someone you love. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Review: Laurin Wittig’s THE DEVIL OF KILMARTIN – Absorbing Highlander Romance!

This was Wittig’s debut novel; and it's a good one. It won the National Readers’ Choice Award for short historical romance, though at 263 pages, it’s not too short to interest me.

Set in the Highlands of Scotland in 1307, and mostly at the Kilmartin castle, it tells the story of a beautiful auburn haired woman, Elena of Lamont, who has great healing power in her hands. Her own clan’s leaders would use her for their own purposes; and, at her father’s death, a ruthless man, seeking to be clan chief, decides he will have Elena to wife to gain the power that her father had. But Elena hates him and hates being used so she flees…right into the arms of The Devil of Kilmartin, the chief of the Lachlan clan, Symon MacLachlan. Symon is plagued by violent head and stomach aches that he believes Elena can cure. He wants to bind her to him by offering her sanctuary, and perhaps more. And then there is the prophecy about flame and madness mingling to make his clan prosper…

Wittig draws a fascinating picture of clan life and the historical setting of 14th century Scotland. But the emotions that run through the characters are timeless. This is a well-written tale that will hold your attention from page one. I recommend it.

It’s going on my Best Scottish Historical/Highlander Romance list.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Review: Ana Seymour’s Irish Historical Trilogy – Tales from 16th Century Ireland

Ana Seymour wrote a trilogy (THE BLACK SWAN, ROSE IN THE MIST and THE IRISH GYPSY), which for the most part, takes place in Ireland in the 16th century. Then she wrote a 4th, closely related book (MAID OF KILARNEY), so it’s really a series of four in my mind. Here’s the review:


Seymour can certainly write well. Her dialog is interesting and her characters (especially the men) are multi-faceted and worth knowing. But this first in the series (unlike the others) disappointed me because she included elements that were contrived. Eventually, the story picked up once she introduced the rebel Shane O'Neill, a real person who was an Irish king of the O'Neill dynasty of Ulster in the mid 16th century. From then on the plot held my interest. But the romance never persuaded me and the heroine was a little too perfect.

Set in Ireland in 1562, the story begins by two warring clans (the Riordans and the O'Donnells) settling a blood feud between by a marriage between the oldest Riordan son and the eldest O'Donnell daughter. They are betrothed when the girl is only 10. Now 19, Claire O'Donnell is married to Cormac Riordan, but no one told her of the Riordan curse that claims their brides, often in childbed, within the first year of marriage. Cormac, thinking to defeat the curse, weds her but refuses to bed her. Her family is so appalled by his deserting her on their wedding night that her brother, a hot head, stabs and kills Cormac's father. (Seemed a bit over the top to me, too.)

Here are the improbable events that made the story seem contrived: (1) A girl of 19 would not be allowed to speak for her family/clan in the 16th century when the head of the clan, her father, was alive. Just wouldn't happen. (2) Claire's moving into the Riordan castle would not make acceptable the unworthy blood price of 100 gold crowns for the senior Riordan's life. (3) Cormac tries to avoid being alone with Claire so he goes to her bedchamber to thank her for saving his colt--? Please. He could have thanked her anywhere. (4) She is little miss perfect wife and castle hostess and Cormac's brothers, who until then hated all O'Donnells for killing their father, suddenly love her. Don't think so. And there were more unrealistic things going on before page 100. Then about page 100 the story began to include the historical elements that made it interesting.


This is second in the trilogy was set in 1558 (Prologue), and 1565, and tells the story of Catriona (“Cat”) O’Malley, whose father was killed by the English and the O’Malley lands seized when she was 13. Taken to England to be raised as the ward of a British lord, and given an English surname, Cat becomes one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting, everyone believing her to be English. No one knows Cat is an Irish lass and a spy for the Irish rebels. When two Irish emissaries come from England’s enemy, Shane O’Neill, to negotiate a peace treaty, Cat finds herself working against them. She doesn’t want peace; she wants Ireland for the Irish. One of the emissaries, Niall Riordan, youngest of the three Riordan brothers, is smitten with Cat, but she seems disinterested. In fact, she is intrigued with him but knows she must betray him…

Better than the first, this story was believable and lacked any clearly improbable events. The only thing I found hard to believe was that Cat never seemed to resent the way the Riordan brothers acted toward her. In real life she would have resented their indifferent and sometimes harsh treatment. Other than that, it was an entertaining story with enough history of the time to qualify as a “real” historical romance.


Set in 1567 (Prologue) and 1574, it tells the story of Maura, daughter of an Irish lass and a Gypsy leader. Raised with the Gypsies, Maura is steeped in their folklore and wisdom. When her father dies, she flees the new leader who is a lecherous, vile man. As she does, she steals the horse of Eamon Riordan, middle brother in the Riordan family to aid her escape to England (she sells the horse for food). Years later, Maura returns to Ireland, and through a series of events, becomes governess to Cormac Riordan’s three adorable children. When Eamon discovers Maura hiding in his own home, he decides to keep her secret.

Like the others, this also has references to the O”Neill rebellion and historical events, though only this one has any contact with Queen Elizabeth’s court and it was my favorite. This third book takes place entirely in Ireland. It’s fairly good and the writing and dialog are well done. Neither the hero nor the heroine is the best of those in the trilogy but are still worthy characters.


While not strictly a part of Seymour's Irish historical trilogy, this should be a part of the series. And, it may be the best of the four. It includes some of the same characters from ROSE IN THE MIST, including the hero, Dr. John Black.

When the story opens in 1576, John Black is a 45-year-old doctor/politician/warrior taking some time off to relax and visit the daughter of the woman he loved as a youth. Catriona ("Cat") is now wed to Niall Riordan (their story is told in book #2) and living in Killarney. On his way to visit them, John saves a girl named Daphne from an attempted drowning by bullies and takes her home to her mother, Lily, known as the Witch of Whistler's Woods. Lily is hiding from a past of shame and her family's rejection, but she is increasingly concerned her lame daughter wants more people in her life than just her mother. John offers to help Daphne walk better, but Lily is hesitant. She's been hurt by trusting men before...

This is a story of second chances...the story of a man who lost his first love and a woman who was betrayed by hers. I loved the more mature man that was John Black though there was a time in the story when I questioned his less than honorable intentions toward Lily. Lily was a survivor as only a single mother who loves her child can be. It's a worthy tale, well-told and I can recommend it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Best Irish Historical Romances!

These are my Best Irish Historical Romances involving either Ireland or Irish characters. I developed this list for a friend of Irish descent who loves Irish historical romances and asked me to recommend some. It turned out to be an immense project as there are many romances that feature Ireland, Irish heroes and heroines, or Irish immigrants in America. Many of the stories transcend typical historical romance. They are sweeping saga that bring to life heartrending tales of wonderful Irish men and women who survived much hardship in Ireland to come to America and then make our country great.

To get this list I read many more novels than appear here. I’m giving you only the ones I rated 4 or 5 stars (in alphabetical order). The list is also up on Amazon's Listmania.

I hope you find some among them that will bring to mind the Emerald Isle and perhaps give you dreams of an Irish hunk.

Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes
The Passions Of Emma by Penelope Williamson
Briar’s Rose by Kimberly Cates
Broken Vows by Shirl Henke
Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare (Irish heroine; from the Kenleigh/Blakewell trilogy)
Countess of Scandal, Duchess Of Sin and Lady of Seduction (Daughters of Erin trilogy) by Laurel McKee
Crown Of Mist by Kimberly Cates
Dream Lover by Virginia Henley
Emerald Ecstasy by Emma Merritt
The Game by Brenda Joyce
Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and The Lord of the Wolves (Viking trilogy set in Ireland) by Heather Graham
The Ground She Walks Upon by Meagan McKinney
The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley
Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
The Highwayman by Anne Kelleher
The Irish Devil by Donna Fletcher
The Irish Princess, The Irish Enchantress and The Irish Knight by Amy Fetzer
The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen
Love’s Legacy by Rosemary Jordan
Maid Of Killarney by Ana Seymour
Her Warrior Slave, Her Warrior King, Her Irish Warrior, The Warrior's Touch, Taming Her Irish Warrior, and Surrender to an Irish Warrior (MacEgan Brothers Series) by Michelle Willingham
Moonlit by Emma Jensen (3rd in her Regency spy series;the only one set in Ireland)
Maidensong by Diana Groe (the sequel Erinsong did not make my list)
No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
Raeliksen and Mac Liam (from the Emerald Isle trilogy) by Renee Vincent
Rose in the Mist and Irish Gypsy (from the Riordan trilogy) by Ana Seymour
Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With the Wind by Alexandra Ripley
Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small
Surrender the Stars by Cynthia Wright
Wolf’s Embrace by Gail Link

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s THE PASSIONS OF EMMA – Passionate, heartbreaking Irish Immigrant Love Story

Get out the Kleenex for this great romance by Williamson! I knew I was in trouble when I was in tears by page 20. But I could not put it down.

This is one of the most moving historical romances I've read; the Romance Writers of America nominated it for the coveted RITA award. If you've ever loved a man who loved a woman before you, or if you've ever loved a man you know you can never have...this is the romance for you! And even if you are not one of those, you will love this story, I promise.

Based in 1890 in Bristol, Rhode Island, it's the story of Emma, daughter of the wild and wealthy Tremayne family. With her father gone to live his own life, her sister in a wheelchair and her brother dead, Emma is her mother's "last hope" for continuation of their line of respectability. And it seems Emma will do her duty when she agrees to wed the staid but prosperous Geoffrey Alcott who has loved her "forever." But then Emma's life is changed forever when a young Irish child dies in one of Geoffrey's mills. She becomes involved in the lives of an Irish family and befriends an Irish woman, Bria, who while pregnant and dying of consumption, is still full of life and love for her man, Shay McKenna, and her two young girls. What Emma sees in their lives inspires her to defy her powerful family to fight for what is right and to become the woman she was meant to be. What she sees in Shay will cause her much heartache.

It's a wonderful story of the friendship between two women from very different backgrounds who become so important to each other they complete each other's lives. It's the story of a young woman of artistic talent and a wild and passionate nature who is confined to a life of meaningless duty and ritual but is moved by love to make a different life. It's the story of two women who love one man--a man of great dreams and great passions who has had great troubles in his life both in Ireland and America. It's the story of men and women who take what life throws at them and still manage to live significant lives full of love. Finally, it's the story of the Irish immigrants who have made America great and the sacrifices they made to build lives here. I could not put it down and I dare say you will not be disappointed. This one is a keeper!! And, it's now available on Kindle.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Review: Shirl Henke’s BROKEN VOWS – Superb Storytelling and an Irish Hunk to Love!

Set in Nevada in the late 19th century (beginning in 1870) during the silver boom on the Comstock Lode, Henke delivers a superb tale of young love, prejudice (against the Irish among others), deception, treachery and love’s second chances. I highly recommend it.

Rebekah Sinclair, a small town preacher’s daughter, and Rory Madigan, an impoverished Irish immigrant who worked his way West as a prizefighter, meet and quickly fall in love. In a night of passion, they vow to love each other forever and Rory asks Rebekah to marry him assuring her he will find a way to make enough money to win her parents’ respect. However, an evil rich man who wants Rebekah on his arm as he rises in politics conspires to keep Rory from her; his efforts are aided by the bigotry of Rebekah’s family. As a result Rory and Rebekah are separated, each believing they were betrayed by the other. In a story reminiscent of Judith McNaught’s PARADISE (another 5 star but a contemporary), Rory and Rebekah meet again years later when Rory is rich and influential and bent on revenge. But true love will have its day….

I know I’m reading a 5 star novel when I cannot put it down and my emotions are truly engaged. In this case, I also ended up reading it through much of the night, it was that good. Her wonderful characters are richly drawn and her plot weaves an intriguing story. Henke gives us a taste of the West when it was still wild enough that murder and corruption went without retribution, when powerful men used others for their own greed and lust. Then, too, living in America now, we forget the Irish were not just persecuted by the English in Ireland; they were persecuted here as well. Though Rebekah was poor, her family would never consider an Irish Catholic an acceptable husband, no matter how much she loved him. Thank God it’s a romance and all comes right in the end. You won’t regret getting this one

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If you ever go to Dublin…

…you will likely be traveling down Grafton Street. And when you do, look for my favorite Café, Bewley’s.

The first time I wandered into Bewley’s, I discovered a world of gourmet coffee and treats. Upstairs they have a sitting area where I was drinking coffee and enjoying the ambiance. I happened to look up from my newspaper to spot a beautiful redheaded woman dressed all in green, just sitting across the aisle facing me like some Irish princess from the long ago past. She was also dining alone, so I struck up a conversation. She was most gracious to respond and soon I learned she was an American with Irish roots just like me! (In my case the roots also include Scotland and England.) What a truly small world we live in! Our conversation was one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent and became a lasting memory of a wonderful Irish city.

To get you in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day, how about taking a virtual tour of Bewley’s? Here’s the link:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Review: Amanda Hughes’ BEYOND THE CLIFFS OF KERRY – Absorbing tale from old Ireland and the American Frontier -- an Irish Heroine to Admire and a Frontiersman to Love!

This was Hughes' debut novel and it is clear to me she has a great writing career ahead of her. Set in Ireland and America, beginning in 1755, this is a captivating tale of a beautiful young Irish girl, Darcy McBride, who has a thirst for knowledge and a spirit of adventure. She survived The Hunger in Ireland that claimed most of her family and when the story opens, she is keeping house for her embittered brother. To pay taxes and put food on the table, Darcy and the young men of County Kerry become smugglers, illegally trading their wool with the French for brandy. In one shipment, they also smuggle in a Jesuit priest who befriends Darcy and teaches her to read and write. When British soldiers discover the smuggling, Darcy is transported to the English Colonies for 7 years of indentured service, which for a beautiful young woman meant sexual servitude to her owner. One day at Fort Lawrence, Darcy meets Jean Michel Lupe, a surveyor for the Crown and an educated man, who will change her life.

This is a romance, to be sure, but quite unusual in that the hero isn't introduced until half way through the book. Much of what would be "back story" in other historical romances becomes an intense, well-told tale that at times is heart rending. We experience the brutality of cruel English soldiers and savage Indians on the American frontier. But there are many warm, charming moments and we see how times of great hardship affect people for both good and bad. There are some truly, desperately sad moments that will tear at your heart since both life in Ireland and on the frontier was hard. Darcy is a wonderful heroine with a strong heart, a giving nature and great courage. Hughes brings to life a cast of wonderful characters, including the wise and kind-hearted Father Etienne (a kind of hero). Darcy's story has great realism. I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Review: Emma Merritt’s EMERALD ECSTASY – Superb Storytelling, Enthralling Tale of Revenge in 19th Century Ireland

You know you have a keeper when your emotions are engaged from the beginning and you can’t put it down. EMERALD ECSTASY is just such a story. It begins in Ireland, where most of the story occurs, and ends in the new Republic of Texas. The heroine is an American but the hero is all Irish hunk. This is one you will want to buy new if you can as I expect you’ll want to read it again and again.

In the spring of 1833, Marguerite LeFleur left New Orleans, her family plantation and the hurtful rumors spread by her wheelchair-bound friend (who believed Marguerite was having an affair with her husband), to go to Ireland where Marguerite’s mother moved upon marrying a British government agent, Earl Taylor. Taylor had put down an Irish rebellion (brutally, killing without cause), and as a result, was given the O’Roarke lands by the Crown. He is hated by the Irish and plagued by their hero, Sheridan O’Roarke, the surviving male of the O’Roarke family. Before Marguerite even sees her mother, she encounters the dashing Sheridan, who means to have her if only to thwart Taylor’s plans to take the wealthy heiress as his mistress.

Sheridan is a noble hero who loves Ireland and the Irish cause but tragedy and others’ evil actions have caused him to compromise his honor to become an outlaw seeking only revenge. Marguerite is a courageous, kind and morally upright young woman who has been the victim of lies told to manipulate her into Taylor’s evil hands, and though she loves Sheridan, she is now the victim of his lust and revenge. When it seems love is lost, she leaves Ireland for Texas to start a new life…

This is a story of Ireland and all that the Irish suffered at English hands. But it is also a story of how love can creep up on a person and hold him in its grip so that time and distance cannot dull the passion. You will love how Merritt weaves a complex, well-told tale to draw you in. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It’s Irish week on my blog…come celebrate all things Irish and St. Patrick’s Day!

For all you Irish lovers out there, this will be a fun week on my blog. I’ll be sharing my favorite Irish café in Dublin (you can take a virtual tour!); I’ll be posting reviews of some of the great Irish romances AND my first ever Best Irish Historical Romances list. So join me as we celebrate Ireland and all things Irish for the historical romance lover!

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Review: Rosemary Jordan’s LOVE’S LEGACY – A Sweeping Saga of Irish Immigrants in America and a Keeper!

This is a moving saga of Irish immigrants in America and within that the women of one particular family. It’s a bit different than most romances. To be sure, there are love stories woven in…many “romances”…and the heroine is there throughout, but there is no one couple who meet in the beginning and end up together at the end.

Jordan weaves an absorbing tale, but I must warn you it’s a real tearjerker (I was in tears seven pages in and that was only the prologue!) Wretched things happen to folks in this family that will keep you reeling. There are two themes: an exquisite hand-made wedding dress Megan brings with her from Ireland that ties the women of the extended clan together; and the oppression by society (and certain men) of the women who triumph notwithstanding. While there are some wonderful men and real heroes here (Abe Goldstein being one of them), the early women in the family suffer under the weight of a culture that often left them little choice and meager lives.

The novel is divided into 5 “books”: Megan (the heroine, who is featured throughout), Mary Kathleen (Megan’s daughter), Nora (Mary Kathleen’s daughter), Meredith (Nora’s daughter and Jenna (Meredith’s daughter). Though no date is given at the outset, the book covers 1889 to 1980, a very long time (the matriarch is 107 in the prologue as she looks back and 16 in the beginning when she and her mother make the wedding dress).

The first part of the story takes place in Ireland. Megan O’Brian is the beautiful redheaded daughter of a poor Irish farmer who, since she was a young child, always knew she’d marry handsome Patrick Gallagher. When she is 17, Patrick becomes involved in Irish rebels’ theft of British weapons (not his idea) and, as a result, had to flee Ireland to avoid arrest. With her family’s blessing, Megan weds Patrick and they leave to begin a new life in America. Though Patrick is educated, he loses an office job when his vision becomes blurry, and Megan, though a wonderful seamstress, soon becomes pregnant. He is discouraged and she is constantly tired from trying to meet the demands of her husband and baby while still sewing. None of their dreams are being realized as they struggle to survive in New York.

The love scenes are understated but blend well with the story. The dialog is excellent and believable and the emotions very real. If a good story is your main goal, one that draws you in and won’t let you go, this novel will please you.

Much of this story resonated with my own life as it might with yours: My ancestors included Irish immigrants and strong women who worked hard to make a better life in America. In both World War I and II, young women in my family lost their young husbands or fiancés, leaving them alone to raise their children. It’s the story of America, and in this case the Irish Catholics, who brought so much to this land and the Irish women who overcame great obstacles. A worthy tale…and, if you don’t mind an often times sad story, I heartily recommend it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Review: Nadine Crenshaw’s FIELDS OF THE SUN: Simply Superb Storytelling!

I love the way Nadine Crenshaw breaks rules as she tells a great story. For example, in this one, set in 17th century England, Morocco, the Atlantic Ocean and Brazil, the hero and heroine don’t meet until page 184! And I was perfectly OK with that, as I could not stop reading this fascinating tale.

Both Lady Katherine Heartfield and Sheffield Denton seek adventure and each makes unusual, rebellious decisions that eventually lead them to be captured by pirates and brought to Morocco to serve a harsh master. Katherine arrives 5 years after Shef. First, she was escaping an arranged marriage in Cornwall and then, in London, Cromwell’s men where she cut her hair and disguised herself as a young highborn lad. It is as a boy she is taken from the pirate ship when it arrives in Morocco. Little does Kate know that the Arab master likes pretty boys. But Shef has a plan to escape.

Kate has a wonderfully clever habit of writing letters in her mind to her best friend in Cornwall, Henrietta. These “letters” add a delightful touch to the story as Kate tells Henrietta all she is feeling.

Sadly, this novel published in 1997 was the last of Crenshaw’s historicals. All of them deliver interesting, well-written romances that don’t disappoint.