Saturday, April 21, 2012

Best Romance Trilogies: Superb Talent in Threes!

It takes talent to write a great romance novel, but it takes even more to write three in a row and make them all worthy reads. Of course, I recognize this omits some wonderful single novels and some great multibook series, and almost all of those on my list are historicals, but if you like to read trilogies, as I do, here’s my list of the top trilogies I recommend:

1. Heather Graham’s North American Woman trilogy: SWEET SAVAGE EDEN, A PIRATE'S PLEASURE and LOVE NOT A REBEL

2. Heather Graham’s Civil War trilogy: ONE WORE BLUE, AND ONE WORE GRAY and AND ONE RODE WEST.


4. Marsha Canham’s Pirate Wolf trilogy: ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA, IRON ROSE and THE FOLLOWING SEA



7. Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers trilogy: IF YOU DARE, IF YOU DESIRE and IF YOU DECEIVE

8. Iris Johansen’s Wind Dancer trilogy: THE WIND DANCER, STORM WINDS and REAP THE WIND

9. Virginia Henley’s Medieval Plantagenet trilogy: THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER, THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL and THE MARRIAGE PRIZE

10. Shirl Henke’s Cheyenne trilogy: CAPTURE THE SUN, THE ENDLESS SKY, and SUNDANCER

11. Elizabeth Lowell’s Medieval trilogy: UNTAMED, FORBIDDEN and ENCHANTED

12. Lisa Jackson’s Medieval Welsh trilogy: ENCHANTRESS, KISS OF THE MOON and OUTLAW

13. Lisa Jackson’s Medieval Welsh trilogy: IMPOSTRESS, TEMPTRESS and SORCERESS

14. Judith McNaught’s Westmoreland trilogy: A KINGDOM OF DREAMS, WHITNEY MY LOVE and UNTIL YOU


16. Connie Brockway’s Scottish trilogy: THE PASSIONATE ONE, THE RECKLESS ONE and THE RAVISHING ONE

17. Emma Jensen’s Regency Spy trilogy: ENTWINED, FALLEN and MOONLIT

18. Renee Vincent’s Emerald Isle trilogy: RALIKSEN, MAC LIAM and THE FALL OF RAIN

19. Johanna Lindsey’s Wyoming trilogy: BRAVE THE WILD WIND, SAVAGE THUNDER, and ANGEL

20. Pamela Clare’s Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy: SWEET RELEASE, CARNAL GIFT and RIDE THE FIRE

21. Tina St. John’s Warrior trilogy: WHITE LIONS LADY, BLACK LION’S BRIDE and LADY OF VALOR.


23. Laurel McKee’s Daughters of Erin trilogy: COUNTESS OF SCANDAL, DUCHESS OF SIN and LADY OF SEDUCTION


25. Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose trilogy: PIECES OF SKY, OPEN COUNTRY and CHASING THE SUN

26. Judith McNaught’s Contemporary trilogy: PARADISE, PERFECT and SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Review: Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM – Quaker Heroine and Rake Hero Make for an Unusual, Brilliant Romance

Published in 1992, this historical romance moved the genre forward in a way others had not. Set in the late 1820s, it deals with the subject of physical malady leading to apparent (but not real) madness and the recovery that gradually restored sense and communication. It also involves the mind of a Quaker woman dealing with her growing feelings for a man she would otherwise find reprehensible.

Named for the great mathematician, Archimedea Timms (“Maddy”) is, at 28, a Quaker spinster who lives with her blind father helping him with his equations. It was through him, Maddy met “the mathematical duke,” Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx, for whom she has nothing but disdain. A rake and reprobate at 32, who lives his life as he wants, he also has a charitable side that would found a university where he invites Maddy’s father to teach. And then in a duel, while not wounded, he suffers a stroke that sends him to a rest home for the mentally unstable, where he again encounters Maddy who is working there. Having lost the power of speech and of understanding words, all but Maddy think him mad.

This story is very well written with meaningful dialog, richly drawn characters and an intricate plot. It deals with two worlds that come together in tragedy. The rakish duke with a life of opulence would not have found Maddy the Quaker girl so appealing, and perhaps she would not have found him so sympathetic, if not for his stroke. It makes for a very different romance. Some of it was slow and difficult to read, not that the writing wasn’t good, but his struggle to speak and be understood, though brilliantly done, was still difficult to read. I agree with the other reviewers who reacted negatively to Maddy’s unkind treatment of Christian, made all the worse for her being a woman of faith. She criticized and belittled him, often failing to support him in his hour of need. It took her an awfully long time to see the Truth. As one character said, I didn’t care if she was a Hindu; she had a wonderful man who loved her and she kept resisting a future with him. I just wanted to slap her. But it is truly a compelling story and I recommend it.

If you liked this one, I highly recommend to you Penelope Williamson’s THE OUTSIDER.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Review: Catherine Coulter’s DEVIL’S EMBRACE – Simply Enthralling...I could not put it down!

This was Coulter’s first historical romance, published in 1985, and it is a superbly written, heart stopping, action-filled story that I could not put down. Literally. I do not recommend you begin it in the evening as I did. That night I did not sleep until nearly dawn. Forget the low reviews on Amazon, and set aside your 21st century sensibilities, and go with what may be one of the most enthralling romances I’ve read in a long time. Certainly it’s a classic that affected the genre of historical romance—and well worth the read just for that! But it will be seen as strong against anything written today, I promise.

Set in the late 18th century (I estimate 1775-76), it tells the story of highborn 18-year-old Cassie Brougham, who on the day before her marriage to a Viscount she has loved for years, is abducted by 34-year-old Anthony Wells, the Earl of Clare, who has been watching her since she was a child, all the while believing she is his perfect mate. He intended to court her at her first season, but then learns of the hastily planned marriage to the Viscount. Though Anthony’s intention in seizing Cassie is marriage, that doesn’t stop him from rape to claim her, nor imprisonment, first on his yacht and then in his Italian villa, as he tries to persuade her to marry him. He is not cruel (except at the beginning...); he is kind and indulgent. Cassie reasonably hates him for what he has done to her life (and Coulter does that very, very well), but she succumbs to the passion Anthony calls forth each time he makes love to her. You can feel the terrible conflict within this strong-willed, courageous girl as she feels she has no choices. Even her attempt to escape comes to naught. (There’s a bit of the Stockholm syndrome working here, I do believe.)

The plot is intricate and intriguing with lots of action and lots of mystery. The characters are richly drawn, including the hero who has a noble side notwithstanding his selfish and brutal act of taking another man’s bride. But the heroine is the one who really garnered my sympathy. She faces mad dogs and Englishmen and manages to overcome every challenge to gain the respect of all. I highly recommend it.

The second book is THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER which is now on my "to read" shelf.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Review: Meredith Duran’s AT YOUR PLEASURE – Youthful Love Turned to Hate Turns Once Again to Love—a Well Told Tale!

A new author in 2008, Meredith Duran now has six historical novels to her credit and each one is excellent. This one, like the rest, is impeccably researched and the plot well developed. I consider her the romance author for the intellectual so exacting is her wording (and I usually need a dictionary close at hand for the rarely used words).

AT YOUR PLEASURE brings to life the turmoil in England in 1715, as George I of Hanover reigns as King but the nobles are dissatisfied and the Jacobites want James Stuart (James III) as their monarch. Scotland is threatening war.

Adrian Ferrers, Earl of Rivenham, and Lady Leonora Colville were young lovers who stole one afternoon of passion together. Though they planned to marry, the treachery of her family tore them apart and wed her to another who with poison took Rivenham’s unborn child from her. Years later, Nora’s husband is dead and Adrian and Nora meet again, each believing betrayed by the other and now on opposite sides of the growing division between the supporters of Protestant King George and Catholic James Stuart. Adrian, a favorite of the king, has come to Nora’s home seeking to capture her brother, David, a traitor for his support for James Stuart. When Adrian learns what actually happened those many years ago, he decides to win Nora back.

I like Duran’s way of saying things (“Perhaps he was never himself but with her. Or rather, he was more than himself. He did not recognize this excess of emotion within him. Six years out of practice, he had yet to fathom a way to govern it.”) This novel did not earn the full 5 stars I gave her first, THE DUKE OF SHADOWS, because it consists primarily of the emotional interaction between the hero and heroine, and mostly takes place on the Colville estate, taken over by Adrian and his men as they lie in wait for Nora’s brother. In the midst of such circumstances, Adrian and Nora recapture something of their former relationship, but as passion draws them together, politics tears them apart. The dialog is superb; the ending a sweet one. So, I recommend it.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How We Got to Where We Are Today: Modern Historical Romance Over the Last Several Decades, or A Recommended Reading List for the Uninitiated

Sometimes when I talk to fellow readers of historical romance, or even authors, and I mention a name from the past, an author who helped shape the genre, like Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, I get a blank stare in return. It occurred to me that as lovers of a genre it might be helpful to read some of the classics to see where we’ve come from and to enjoy the greats who have contributed so much to the craft.

I’m not going as far back as Ivanhoe, Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre. I’m not even reaching back to the seminal novels of Georgette Heyer in the early 20th century. No, I’m starting in the 1970s when the bedroom door was flung open never to close again. And while I may not have included your favorite author, by reading the romances on this list, you’ll have a good idea of our beginnings and what so many wonderful authors have done for the genre. Think of it as an education in modern historical romance. Where an author has written many novels (some early ones are still writing best sellers today), I tried to use their earliest work that influenced the genre.

So, here's the list of the historical romances I recommend you read. Each has something to show you. Some may require you to shop online for a used book, though many are available as eBooks. I’m not saying they will all be your favorites, or that they are all mine. And I realize some readers will think I left off one I should have included. This is a sampling meant to give you a picture of how the genre has developed over time. Most are novels I’ve rated 5 stars, so I promise you won’t be bored.

Included because of its significance…

• Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis (1965)

The 1970s: The Pioneering Years

• The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972)
• Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers (1974)
• Devil's Desire by Laurie McBain (1975)
• Love’s Tender Fury by Jennifer Wilde (aka Tom Huff) (1976)
• Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey (1977)
• Caroline by Cynthia Wright (1977)
• Love’s Wild Desire by Jennifer Blake (1977)
• This Loving Torment by Valerie Sherwood (1977)
• The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory (1979)

The 1980s: The Explosive Years

• Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee (1980)
• Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small (1981)
• Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter (1982)
• Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne (1984)
• Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught (1985)
• The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham (1986)
• The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley (1988)
• Capture the Sun by Shirl Henke (1988)
• Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw (1989)
• Sweet Savage Eden by Heather Graham (1989)
• Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart (1989)

The 1990s: The Developing Years

• Dark Fires by Brenda Joyce (1991)
• Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (1992)
• Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
• Enchanted by Elizabeth Lowell (1994)
• The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson (1997)
• Night in Eden by Candice Proctor (1997)
• Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens (1999)

The 2000s: The “Standing On The Shoulders of Giants” Years

• By Possession by Madeline Hunter (2000)
• Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes (2002)
• The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole (2003)
• Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (2007)
• Broken Wing by Judith James (2008)
• My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne (2008)
• The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (2008)
• Raeliksen by Renee Vincent (2008)
• Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell (2010)
• Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner (2011)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Guest Today and Tomorrow: Favorite Author Marsha Canham on Writing the Swashbuckler Romance!

First, I would like to thank Regan for inviting me to be a guest on her blog. I’ve noticed she’s also writing a sea-faring adventure, so it’s right up my sea-lane, so to speak.

My love of high seas adventures started way back, in the days of black and white TV when my dad and I would sit in front of the 15 inch “huge” screen and watch movies like Captain Blood and The Seahawks. I had an enormous crush on Errol Flynn that lasted well into my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s… and even now, I see a picture of him and I feel a little blip in my chest. The movies were, compared to movies made today, camp and cheesy. Captain Blood vs Master and Commander, well. ‘Nuff said. But there is still magic there. The pirates still cause a stir, the adventure still grabs hold of my imagination, and I’m compelled to watch reruns every time I see it on the TV guide despite the bazillions of times I’ve watched it.

When I started writing, I wanted to capture some of that excitement. I wanted my hero to grip the reader’s imagination and take her on an adventure, not just into romance, but to give her a glimpse of what it might be like to sail on board a galleon, to feel the deck boards shiver through a broadside, to smell the smoke and feel the heat of battle coursing through her veins. My first published book was CHINA ROSE and the closest I came to the sea was having the hero, Justin, be a sea captain coming home to stir up some trouble. I wrote a couple of scenes on board his ship but they were relegated to the cabin until the very last page where they were going to sail off into the sunset.

But my feet were wet and I thought to myself: okay, you can do it. Something readers may not know about me is that I get violently seasick if I paddle around on a floaty in the pool for too long, so my actual experiences on board “boats” was limited and unpleasant. When I decided to tackle a three-masted tall ship, there was a certain amount of trepidation, and I knew I had to start with the basics, learning everything I could about ships, their design, the terms, the equipment, weapons, sails. It was a bit daunting, to say the least.

Normally I take a year to write a book, and for something as involved as learning how a ship works from the keel up, it consumes at least half of that time. Sea battles? Hello? I staggered home from the library with stacks of dry, instructional manuals and accounts of naval battles. I cut out little ships and moved them around on paper to plot out the battles I was writing and edited them a dozen times until I thought I could “see” them playing out like a movie. I roped a neighbor into reading them until she became seasick from all my rewrites and edits, but in the end I had something I thought was exciting, romantic, adventurous, and reasonably accurate.

The feet were wet…it was time to wade in up to the knees.

I was reading a magazine one day and wondering what to write next. That’s usually my thought process and my answer for the “where do you get your ideas,” the question most authors are asked at least a hundred times during a conference. Normally you don’t “get” ideas. They just sort of reach out and bonk you on the head or grab you by the ears and say: you can do this! So there I was reading some article in a magazine and the phrase “…the wind and the sea…” leaped out at me. Leaped! I mean I literally sat there and stared at those words, seeing an entire adventure play out in my head. Within a day I was at my desk staring at my little cut out boats and sliding them around again.

But I needed a different “hook”. I had read a few pirate romances after BOUND BY THE HEART came out. Any author worth paper and pen wants to know her competition. Some were good, some were ...not so good, but most had the recurring theme (and I was guilty of it myself in BBTH) of having the rescued/captured damsel in distress, and the big bad sea captain who either (ugh) forced her into submission or came out with the totally dorky declaration: I will win her with my charm. Yes, there were dashing, deadly, dangerous sea villains who declared that whilst standing over a feisty, bodice-ripped heroine with flashing green eyes and fiery red hair who fought him like a scratching cat.

Realistically, pirates just saw what they wanted and took it.

My greatest pleasure in being presented with the opportunity to revise and edit my backlist before reissuing them again as eBooks, has been the ability to write out the rape scene from BOUND BY THE HEART. I didn’t like it at the time, but it was the flavor of the day. It was realistic for any sea captain to rape and pillage, but it just didn’t suit Morgan Wade and, in my eyes anyway, never let him live up to the hero image completely.

Back to THE WIND AND SEA. I needed something to make it different, to make it stand out, to make it realistic without crossing that line into bodice-ripping territory (which was still alive and thriving at the time). So I took away the bodice. I put my heroine, Courtney, in a shirt and breeches, put a pistol and sword in her hands and made her part of the pirate crew. I gave her a good, strong match in the hero, Adrian Ballantine, but I also gave her the upper hand in more than a few scenes. I threw in sea battles…glorious wonderful sea battles that I lived out in my mind reel by reel. I pictured Errol Flynn looking over my shoulder and nodding, grinning, flashing that sexy smile of his. I even tossed in a little homage to Mr. Flynn when I had Adrian catch Courtney around the waist and swing her across from the deck of one ship to the other on a line of rigging.

The book was long…is long…and my editor at the time nearly swallowed her pencil.

She said I had to cut it. I said show me where. She couldn’t.

She said unfeminine heroines wouldn’t play well on cover art, that in fact they had never done a cover of a romance with the girl in pants with raggedy short hair. I thought the artwork on the print copy was absolutely gorgeous and spot-on.

She warned me that the role-reversal, the intensity of the action scenes, the violence might not be well received. It gave me great pleasure each time she called and told me the awards it won. Affaire de Coeur awarded it the Silver Pen. It won the award for the bestselling romance in Canada that year. And Romantic Times created a new category because it didn’t fit into any others. Best Swashbuckler of the Year.

After THE WIND AND THE SEA, where I threw in everything I knew about ships and the sea and sea battles… I wasn’t sure I could think of anything else to write on the water. I wandered off to Medieval England for a while, then to the Scottish Highlands. Then one lovely evening I was walking along the beach and looked out at the full moon reflecting off the water and I just stood there, staring…ACROSS THE MOONLIT SEA.

Doomed, I was. And from that fateful stroll came the Pirate Wolf trilogy. I was thrilled to find my love of writing swashbuckling sea adventures had not waned one little drop. So it was no wonder, after an eight year hiatus, that I returned to the sea with THE FOLLOWING SEA for my first venture back into a career that has taken me to Medieval England to explore my love of Robin Hood, to Regency England to play with highwaymen and spies, to the American West, to Scotland to stand on the battlefield at Culloden and hear the wail of the pipes, feel the driving sleet on my face. All in my mind, of course. And as long as the reels keep playing the scenes out in my mind, my fingers will keep dancing across the keys.

After all, Jonas Dante still needs to have a good woman tame his wild hide.

So I’m curious what readers feel about swashbucklers, about action and adventure in their romances. I was told by some 20-something editor back when I had finished THE IRON ROSE and handed in a proposal for Gabriel Dante’s story, that pirate books were no longer popular. That readers didn’t want stories that they had to think about (which was one of my favorite comments *snort*), that they just wanted simple romances with not too much detail, preferably set in Regency England, and oh yes, throw in a vampire or a paranormal element somewhere. I heard all of that and I knew the writing was on the wall, not on my desk, thus the hiatus.

When the self-publishing wave blasted more than a few of the staid old publishing traditions out of the water last year, a lot of us dinosaurs who had been told the same thing lifted our heads and took a second look around. Really? We could write what we wanted to write? A novel idea: letting the author decide what to write and how to write it...don’t you think?

Gabriel Dante agrees. His story would only have been told in my head otherwise. (Smile)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New Review: Marsha Canham’s THE FOLLOWING SEA – Superb Storytelling in this Swashbuckling Romance, 3rd in the Pirate Wolf trilogy

Third in Canham’s Pirate Wolf trilogy, this one is set in 1623 in the tropical waters of the Spanish Main (think the Caribbean), at a time when pirates and privateers went after the enormous wealth being shipped back to Spain in the form of gold, silver, gems and spices via the Spanish treasure fleets. This is the story of Gabriel Dante, Simon and Isabeau Dante’s youngest son, a handsome sea captain who has just captured a Spanish galleon.

On his way back to the Dante family headquarters in Pigeon Cay, Gabriel rescues beautiful young Eva Chandler from a ship of death. Gabriel’s interest is roused by the English beauty, both her body and the silver coin she carries in a locket, a Spanish coin her father sent her that may have come from a famous treasure ship lost on the Spanish Main. Eva’s father, William Chandler, a shipping magnate, sailed to the Caribbean 4 years ago and Eva hasn’t seen him since. Desperate to know if he lives, Eva has come looking for him and wants Gabriel’s help.

Gabriel is a handsome rogue like his father, the famous Pirate Wolf; and Eva is her own woman, just like Gabriel’s mother. So much so, Eva even taunts Gabriel like Isabeau taunts Simon. In other words, Gabriel and Eva are a well-matched pair! Their adventures will have your head spinning. It’s like taking a wild ride without leaving home: pirates, sunken treasure, battle on land, storms at sea, sword fights and shipboard love, oh yes! Who needs a vacation?…Just read this!

The Pirate Wolf trilogy:

ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA (Simon and Isabeau)
THE IRON ROSE (Juliet and Varian)
THE FOLLOWING SEA (Gabriel and Eva)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's Marsha Canham Week on my Blog...the Master of the Swashbuckler Romance!

When I am asked about my all time favorite authors (and I have been asked), in the handful of names that immediately come to mind is Marsha Canham. She has written 17 historical romances—ALL wonderful—earning her Romantic Times’ Lifetime Achievement Award. In my 5 star ratings, I have noted how she weaves complex plots that draw you in, the seamless way she incorporates history and has us salivating over sexy, noble heroes and wanting to be her amazing heroines. Gifted at dialog and speech patterns, and sometimes adding humor (SWEPT AWAY comes to mind) so that I'm laughing out loud, and at other times brings us to tears (THE PRIDE OF LIONS trilogy broke my heart for the Scots). You will never be disappointed with one of Marsha's stories, I promise.

Canham told me she usually invests 6 months of research for each book she writes before and during the writing of it. When you read them, it is not hard to believe. She is true to the period of the story, and the variety in her settings is amazing. She captures the nuances of characters’ accents in her dialog, which is very difficult to do and many don’t even try. Her love scenes are well scripted and fit precisely into the relationship, and her plots are complex and will keep you reading late into the night.

She is the MASTER of high seas historical romance, and after an 8-year hiatus, I am happy to say she is BACK with a great one! —the third in her wonderful Pirate Wolf trilogy: THE FOLLOWING SEA, reviewed on my blog this week.

I just can’t say enough good things about Marsha’s work…I love her stories.

Come back on Thursday and Friday, as she’ll be making a guest appearance on my blog, telling us how she writes those swashbucklers.

Here are her novels. Note that most are available in new eBook format with sexy new covers.

Scottish/Highland trilogy:

· The Pride of Lions (1988)
· Blood of Roses (1989)
· Midnight Honor (2001)

Pirate Wolf trilogy:

· Across a Moonlit Sea (1996)
· The Iron Rose (2003)
· The Following Sea (March 2012)

Robin Hood trilogy:

· Through a Dark Mist (1991)
· The Shadow of Midnight (1994)
· The Last Arrow (1997)

Others by her I love:

· Bound by the Heart (1984—a high seas romance) [Note: The paperback book and new e-versions are different.]
· The Wind and the Sea (1986 – high seas romance)
· Pale Moon Rider (1998 - highwayman adventure)
· Swept Away (1999 - Regency)
· Under the Desert Moon (1992 - western historical)
· Straight From the Heart (1995 - Civil War historical)
· My Forever Love (2004 - medieval) coming soon as an e-book, titled The Dragon Tree
· China Rose (1984, her first book)