Friday, August 31, 2012

New Review: Shirlee Busbee’s THE SPANISH ROSE – Sweeping Saga from the Spanish Main and British Jamaica in the 17th Century

A sweeping saga from England to the Spanish Main and British Jamaica in the 17th century—it’s a great story. There are only two things that kept me from giving it 5 stars: the pace (which in places will seem very slow), and the heroine (who was too much of a brat at times). However, I loved the hero; he is noble, generous, tender with those he loves and constant. And, oh yeah, he’s a tall, handsome hunk with black hair and green eyes.

Set in the Caribbean in 1664-1668, this tells the story of two feuding families: the British Lancasters and the Spanish Delgatos. A long time ago, they became enemies when a Delgato man took as his unwilling bride Faith Lancaster, steeling her away to Spain. The Lancasters exacted their vengeance, as did the Delgatos their retribution—and so the vendetta has continued.

Maria Delgato, raised on the island of Santo Domingo, has the Lancaster blue eyes her Spanish relations hate. Gabriel Lancaster, who owns land on Jamaica, immediately recognizes them when on his return from London, Maria’s cruel brother, Diego, seizes Gabriel’s ship. Diego’s attack results in the death of Gabriel’s young wife and the capture of his 16-year-old sister. Gabriel becomes a slave on Diego’s sugar plantation, where he is treated cruelly. But Gabriel escapes, and 4 years later is planning his vengeance with Maria in mind.

If you like to be swept away to another time and place, this is a one you will like. Busbee, a master of historical romance, has done a good job, starting with an interesting time in history, and adding to an intriguing plot, lots of action and suspense and a compelling hero. If you can be patient with the slower pace, you’ll find it a wonderful dip into the past.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Review: Betina Krahn’s THE BOOK OF TRUE DESIRES – Treasure and Love in the Jungles of Mexico, a Great Romp!

This is the second in Krahn’s Library of Alexandria/High Victorian Romantic Adventures duology (THE BOOK OF THE SEVEN DELIGHTS was the first), and it won the RITA for the best historical romance in 2007. It’s a wonderful Indiana Jones type treasure hunt that begins in Cuba (at the outset of the Spanish-Cuban-American War) and continues through the jungles of Mexico.

Set in 1898, it tells the story of Cordelia O’Keefe, a beautiful American explorer and adventurer extraordinaire, who strikes a deal with her feisty old tycoon grandfather to fund an expedition to find King Solomon’s Mines if she will first go into Mexico and discover the secret, and perhaps the treasure, of the Mayan stone carving called the Gift of the Jaguar. She agrees before he tells her he must have as his representative on the expedition his butler, the Englishman Hartford Goodnight (love that name). Goodnight, who she continually calls Good___ (fill in the blank; it varies), is anything but your typical butler. He’s clever, impudent and smart—and very well educated and knowledgeable about plants. Cordelia and Goodnight find themselves neck deep in adventure, bandits, jungle animals and mysterious Mayan legends, all the while fighting their attraction for each other.

Krahn very cleverly injects humor though Goodnight’s curt, sarcastic remarks and his journal writings, which are priceless. I laughed out loud at some of them. So well done. There are wonderful secondary characters and a very mean villain. It’s a fun romp and a good love story and you Walter Mitty types will love it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Review: Candice Proctor’s BEYOND SUNRISE – Victorian Adventure and Love in Polynesia from a master of Historical Romance!

Set in 1868 in the South Pacific, this tells the story of India McKnight, a tall Scottish spinster and travel writer who arrives in the Polynesian islands determined to find passage to the island of Takaku for her research. But the only person who will take her to the cannibal-infested island is Jack Ryder, an Australian being pursued by the British navy, ostensibly for causing the death of most of a ship's crew 10 years before. In the course of his reluctantly helping India reach her goal, he holds her captive in the jungle to save himself from the pursuing British navy.

Two people from very different walks of life, thrust together in intimate circumstances can get to know each other very well. Such is this story: a woman who carved out an independent life trying to avoid society’s expectations for her, and a man who, in some ways, had thrown his life away, must find a way to communicate as they are pursued by cannibals and the British navy, including a man Jack once called his friend.

As always, Proctor slowly and wonderfully builds the layers of her characters and the challenges they faced in the past and the ones confronting them now. Often stripped of their clothes due to cold, heat or misadventures, they are also stripped of the veneer that both wear, until they see that what lies between them is too unique to ignore, or cast away. The setting is exotic and beautiful and there is adventure on the sea as well.

Another great from Candice Proctor…I recommend it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Review: Iris Johansen’s THE GOLDEN BARBARIAN – 1st in the Sedikhan Series is a Keeper!

This is the first in Johansen's Sedikhan series and it's a good one. If you like strong, resourceful heroines, handsome desert Sheikhs and love stories set in exotic places, you'll love this one. As with all Johansen's historical romances that I've read, she takes pains to weave a complex tale with wonderful characters and believable sexual tension.

Tess Rubinoff, Princess of Tamrovia (somewhere in the Balkans) first meets Galen Ben Raschid Sheikh of Zalandan (think desert sands) when she is 12 and he pulls her and her dog out of quicksand. Even then, he has designs on her as he wants to link their two countries in order to gain sufficient power to unify the desert tribes of Sedikhan. Since she is only 12, he will wait; he is a patient man. She spends the next 6 years in a convent at her cousin's suggestion (prompted by Galen) to protect her from an abusive father. When her father rejects Galen's suit, Galen arranges to steal Tess away by making her a proposition she cannot refuse--and she doesn't.

Once in Sedikhan, the adventure begins.

In case you want to read more of them, here is the entire Sedikhan Series (not all are historical; some are contemporary; but all have a link to Sedikhan):

The Golden Barbarian
The Golden Valkyrie
The Trustworthy Redhead
Capture the Rainbow
Touch the Horizon
A Summer Smile
And the Desert Blooms
Till the End of Time
The Last Bridge Home
Across the River of Yesterday
Star Light, Star Bright
Man From Half Moon Bay
Blue Blue Skies and Shining Promises
Magnificent Folly
A Tough Man to Tame

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Review: Lauren Renken’s NIGHT SHADOW – Pirate Adventure on the Spanish Main!

Set in the Caribbean and the Spanish Main (aboard a Spanish Galleon and then in Puerto Bella, Panama), it tells the story of two families with a legacy of treachery, violence and hate, one English and one Spanish. Liandra Ramirez, half sister to El Condor, head of the Spanish fleet, is traveling with her family on the way to see her mother in Puerta Bella when a storm wrecks her ship and sweeps the captain and some of the crew overboard. To save the ship and their lives, she is forced to free the prisoners, one of whom is an English captain, Marcus Drake. Marcus, the second son of a British earl, has a long history as a pirate and he and his brother, Talon, have a price on his head. He lives to rejoin his brother and clear their family name.

Renken tells a complex tale that began with MY LORD PIRATE (about Marcus’ older brother) and finishes with HEART OF THE CONDOR (about Liandra’s brother Gabriel). You probably will want to read all three as they are related though this can be a stand-alone. There’s lots of adventure here with pirates and the Spanish officers hunting them. There are some wonderful secondary characters, including a priest and a Spanish nobleman who is in disguise.

I loved Marcus; he’s a strong though troubled man. Liandra was a bit confusing at times, sometimes strong and clear (she is good with a sword and horses and healing), and at other times she comes across as naïve and a bit muddled in her thinking. (She has some learning disability that keeps her from reading and writing.) Still in all, it is enjoyable and I can recommend it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

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

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

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

When Max meets and falls in love with Gabrielle, he wants to be a different man. They will face many challenges and both hide secrets that will tear at their love--all the while the country is plunging into revolution and Max is uncovering new scientific discoveries. There is plenty of intrigue and plots of evildoers here to hold your interest. It's a riveting tale, an early Steampunk if you will, that will sweep you away to 18th century France--an important time in history. It's another Penelope Williamson keeper!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Review: Candice Proctor’s SEPTEMBER MOON – A Masterful Tale from the Queen of Australian Historical Romance

Set in 1864 in Australia, this is a story of love in a foreign land, of discovering the world that opens to your heart when you embrace the things you fear the most. When her employer to whom she was companion dies, Englishwoman Amanda Davenport is suddenly stranded in Port Adelaide, Australia with no funds. Desperate and running out of money, she accepts a position as governess to Patrick O’Reilly’s three children in the isolated wilderness of the Flinders Ranges in the Outback. Her only thought was to work for a year to secure passage home to England.

What happens when you love the man but hate the land he loves? And when he’s not even free to call you his own? That is the dilemma faced by Amanda. And the land she hates is harsh: “It was the endless, aching vistas of a land empty of all pretense, where everything was raw and vast and awe-inspiringly magnificent. A land as wild and wide open and untamable as a man’s soul.” (See picture of the Flinders Ranges below.)

Proctor has once again served up a sweeping saga, a compelling tale of conflicting emotions as the hero and heroine are forced to deal with the ghosts of their past and the failings of others. Her descriptions of wild Outback Australia are so vivid you will feel like you’re there. She includes exciting scenes of a horse race that will have you on the edge of your seat and a massive dust storm that will make you taste the sand. The secondary characters are wonderful, especially O’Reilly’s children. As readers, we are used to reading about a man leaving a woman, but in this story it’s the O’Reilly men who fall in love with Englishwomen only to have them leave because they hate Australia. And when a woman comes along who might be different, whose love might compel her to stay, well…

Let me just say, you will not be disappointed with this one.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do your read or write to music?

Do you listen to music when you read? When you write? Well, I do—and I love it! I find it soothing and the kind I listen to puts me in the mood of the historical romances I'm reading (or these days, writing). It sets the stage.

Today I thought I’d share with you my updated playlist..or much of it...the music I love to read and write by. My favorite composer is the French filmscore composer, Alexandre Desplat (pictured above). He's been nominated four times for an Oscar and is one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation. It was his joint passion for music and cinema that led him firmly in the direction of composition for film. He believes that a great film score should find a balance between function and fiction. Function will ensure that the music fits well into the mechanics of the film but the fiction can tap into the invisible - the deep psychology and emotions of the characters, creating a "vibration." When I listen to his scores, I feel that emotion.

You might not know his name but I’m certain you have heard his music.

Here are some of the scores I have selected from, in some cases using almost all of the album:

By Alexandre Desplat:

• Coco Before Channel
• Girl With a Pearl Earring
• The King’s Speech
• The Twilight Saga: New Moon
• Lust, Caution
• The Painted Veil
• The Golden Compass
• The Queen
• Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close
• Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
• The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

To those works of Desplat, I have added the following:

By James Newton Howard:

• Peter Pan
• The Village
• The Water Horse
• Lady in the Water

By others:

• Becoming Jane (Adrian Johnston)
• Pride & Prejudice (Jean-Yves Thibaudet)
• Celtic Romance (David Arkenstone)
• December and Forest albums (George Winston)
• The Duchess (Rachel Portman)

I’d love to hear from you. Do you listen to music when you read? Or, if you are a romance writer, when you write? If so, share your favorites with me!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Review: Iris Johansen’s THE WIND DANCER - Amazing Love Story...Masterfully Woven Tale!

This is the first in the wind dancer trilogy (THE WIND DANCER, STORM WINDS—and the contemporary, REAP THE WIND) and it is amazing--truly a "keeper" romance, one you'll read and re-read.

Set in early 16th century northern Italy (1503), it tells the story of Lionello Andreas, oldest son of an Italian family that has held as its most treasured possession a small golden statue of the winged horse Pegasus that, according to legend, was given to their family at the fall of Troy. The statue, known as the Wind Dancer, has been stolen from their city state of Mandara by Lion's enemy, Francisco Damari. In his effort to recover the statue, Lion decides to hire a thief and travels with his erstwhile companion, Lorenzo, to Florence where he buys a 16-year-old slave girl, Sanchia, who is known an an expert at lifting men's gold. Lion quickly realizes he wants more from the brave and clever young woman than her thieving talents and takes her as his mistress. Believing she has no ability to resist, she complies as any slave would. In the process of helping Lion to steal the key to the place the statue is kept, and in an act of great courage, Sanchia leads Damari away from Lion only to be captured by the demented and sadistic man. By the time Lion recovers her, she has been tortured and believes Lion did not honor his promise not to leave without her. As a result, she now believes her debt to Lion has been paid and demands her freedom. But Lion, whose feelings for her have grown into an obsession, will not let her go.

This is a story of passionate love, of finding love in an unlikely place and then denying it when honor would suggest another path be taken. The story is well told, the dialog gripping and the twists and turns complex. You will feel like you are there in Renaissance Italy. The physical relationship between Lion and Sanchia is explosive and sensual and Johansen does a superb job of describing it. Like a tapestry with many threads coming together, Johansen has woven many lives into the story in a convincing manner. She has also created a great cast of secondary characters with their own passions and unique qualities. Lorenzo Vasaro, Lion's stalwart friend and an assassin with a jaded past and a wisdom that insists reality be pursued even if costly, adds a richness to the tale.

I highly recommend this one and the two that follow it (STORM WINDS and REAP THE WIND)!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Exotic Locale Historical Romances!

OK, so you’re home and you’re bored. Maybe the kids are in summer camp. You want an adventure, an around the world trip, or perhaps an ocean voyage--but without leaving your living room. And you want a good love story. But you’re tired of those set mostly in England, Ireland, Scotland and America? Well, I have just the list for you!

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me to read when I was 4 and told me I could travel the world through books. She was right. And were she still alive, she would love this list I’ve created just for you daydreamers out there who long to travel…historical romances set in exotic locales by some great authors. Though some might begin (or end) in England (or Ireland or America), they will quickly take you to another time and another place!

The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (India)
The Book of Seven Delights by Betina Krahn (Morocco)
The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn (Cuba and Mexico)
Forever and a Lifetime by Jennifer Horsman (Switzerland)
The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen (Italy) and the sequel, Storm Winds (France)
The Golden Barbarian by Iris Johansen (Balkans and Sedikhan, a mythical desert
Hearts Beguiled by Penelope Williamson (France)
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne (France)
Broken Wing by Judith James (France, North Africa and the Mediterranean)
No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne (France, Africa, India and China)
Fields of the Sun by Nadine Crenshaw (Morocco, the Atlantic Ocean and Brazil)
Devil’s Embrace and Devil’s Daughter by Catherine Coulter (Italy and the
The Lily and the Falcon by Jannine Corte-Petska (Renaissance Italy)
The Lion's Daughter by Loretta Chase (Albania)
Splendor by Brenda Joyce (Russia)
The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole (Great Circle Race from England to
Australia) and the sequel, The Price of Pleasure (Oceania and Cape Town,
South Africa)
The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne (Australia)
Night in Eden by Candice Proctor (Australia)
September Moon by Candice Proctor (Australian outback)
Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor (Tasmania)
Beyond Sunrise by Candice Proctor (the South Pacific, Polynesian islands)
The Hidden Heart by Laura Kinsale (South America, Tahiti and the Pacific)
The Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee (the Caribbean, the Spanish Main and Jamaica)
Night Shadow by Laura Renken (the Caribbean and the Spanish Main)
Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney (the High Seas and the Caribbean)
Across a Moonlit Sea, The Iron Rose and The Following Sea, the
Pirate Wolf trilogy by Marsha Canham (the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the
Spanish Main)
The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham (North Africa, the High Seas)

For more romances featuring pirates and Vikings, or Scottish or Irish romances (not included on this list), see those specific “best” lists under “Categories” on my blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Review: Meredith Duran’s THE DUKE OF SHADOWS - Stunning, Complex Love Story Will Sweep You Away to India!

OK, let me say at the outset, I loved this book. Winner of the Gather First Chapters Romance contest and a Finalist for Romantic Times's Best Historical Debut 2008 award, you know it's a good one. It kept me reading late into the night; it's intriguing. I guarantee it will hold your interest.

This one is also different, an emotionally rich tale of love lost and found, set in India (and London) in 1857 and 1861. (There are four years between the first and second halves of the book.) But I wasn't far into the first half when I realized I needed (1) a glossary (for terms like patois, zenana, sepoy and grisaille), (2) an Urdu-English dictionary (or at least a translation of the phrases and dialog in that language), and (3) a map of India. If she ever does a deluxe edition, I recommend she include those things. But even without them, the story was AMAZING.

The story begins as Emmaline Martin travels to India to join her fiancé (a self-absorbed, cruel colonel in the British East India Company's army and an impoverished man of noble birth who only wants Emma for her money). The marriage was her parents' idea--her parents who are killed on the ship bringing Emma to India. Emma arrives in Delhi emotionally bruised but fascinated with the country. She finds the life of an Englishwoman in Delhi's British society to be boring and, as an artist, she wants to see the colors and people in the bazaar but it's just not safe. She meets Julian Sinclair, cousin to her fiancé and heir to a Dukedom, at one of the parties. She is instantly attracted to the handsome British nobleman who has Indian blood and understands the unhappiness of the Indian people living under the rule of the British. Julian believes there will be an uprising, but he can't get the attention of the British. Of course, he isn't wrong. Much of the first book deals with the uprising and the horrible things Emma witnesses and experiences during that time. Julian and Emma have already realized their love for each other when they are separated in the ensuing battles.

The second half takes place 4 years later when, back in London, Emma and Julian are living as empty shells, he believing she was killed in India and she believing he didn't come for her. You get the picture.

There are many twists and turns in this unique first romance of Duran's as she immerses us in the tumultuous times in India when the Indian soldiers in the British East India Company's army (the sepoys) mutinied in various parts of the country. But in this tale, there is also treachery in the British ranks based on greed.

Duran introduces us not only to a wonderful hero (who loves Emma consistently throughout the book) and heroine (a sensitive, brave young woman who knows her mind and is willing to flaunt convention), but also to some great, multidimensional secondary characters who give you a feeling for the time and the place. It's a story of survival in war, of learning to understand another culture and its effects on the people who are exposed to it, and of true love that marks you for life. The emotion feels real, not contrived. And, one final word about her love scenes: they are truly fitting to the story and what's happening with the hero and heroine at the time. I give her full marks for that as few romance authors do it so well. I highly recommend this one!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Review: Rebecca Brandewyne’s THE JACARANDA TREE – Another Great Romance from Brandewyne and Another Great Escape, this time to 19th Century Australia

Brandewyne serves up a suspenseful tale of 19th century Australia and a society that consisted of those trying to recreate London in the far continent, the Exclusivists, and those sent there against their will, primarily convicts, who struggled to survive, and once freed became the Emancipists, looking to better their lives.

Set in the period 1855-1870, this is the story of Arabella Darracott, a highborn young English lady, who while in Yorkshire was told by a Gypsy that she would one day experience a ship wreck on the “other side o’ the world” where she would become a prisoner and encounter a demon “neath a purple-bloomin’ tree.” Later, upon her father’s death, she sails to Australia to join her guardian. But her ship breaks up on the Great Barrier Reef and she finds herself rescued and nursed her back to health by a dark, handsome stranger named Lucien Sinclair. Unbeknownst to Arabella—when she falls in love with him—he is a wealthy former convict who was convicted of murdering his wife, Verity. To add to that, in Sydney, someone has been murdering prostitutes and calling them “Verity” as he slices them up Jack the Ripper style.

Brandewyne vividly portrays the lot of the women transported to Australia, often for petty crimes (or no crime at all) and forced into lives of prostitution. And she shows us the prejudice against those who were sent to Australia for ostensible crimes, which prejudice continues to this day. (People there are quick to assure you none of their ancestors were the ones transported.) Arabella is a wonderfully likable woman, a risk taker, who thinks for herself. Lucien is a man hardened by life’s blows yet he survives to overcome those who would oppose him and to take the woman he has claimed.

Brandewyne is a great storyteller and I have come to love her romance novels. This one is among them and I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Review: Brenda Joyce’s SPLENDOR – Unique Romance Between a Russian Prince and an English Girl

Another well-written story from Joyce but with a few ingredients that make it unique, including a trip to Russia!

Set in London and Russia in 1812, this is the story of a British commoner and a Russian prince. Carolyn Browne’s father is just a common bookseller but her mother left a noble heritage for love. Years later, her mother dead, Carolyn lives above the bookshop with her father. To make money and have her laughs on London society, she writes a gossip column under a man’s pen name, exposing the hypocrisy of the upper crust. But then she meets Prince Nicholas Sverayov, a colonel in the Russian army and friend of the tsar. He has come to London forge an alliance between his country and England. He is married to a beautiful princess he has never loved and who he has not slept with for 5 years because she cheated on him. Each has gone their separate ways in the bedroom. They have a young 7-year-old daughter, who Nickolas is not sure is even his.

The hero started to look rather unheroic when, as an older, experienced married man, he seduces the 18 year old virgin—(our heroine)—a woman he has no intention of marrying (not that he could). The heroine came across as a bit naïve, though she is an intellectual. Disguised as a young man (to sneak into society’s galas and gather her gossip), she fails to wonder why a much older, worldly Russian prince, known for his conquests with women, would spend an evening with someone who appears to be an 18 year old boy. Then, when as a female, that same Russian prince turns his attention on her, she thinks she can outsmart the rake. She desires true love but has no desire for passion (at least initially), and has no clue as to what attracts men and women. Then, despite her talk of morality, she sleeps with the married man. Adultery, she acknowledges, is wrong, but she still does it.

Several things were unrealistic. First, a young maiden of 18 would not be allowed to go alone anywhere with a man not a relative, not in 1812. Second, to take a ride in the park with a known, married rake would have condemned her in society’s eyes. (Unless he wanted to ruin her (which he eventually did anyway), he would have met her more discreetly. So there were some unbelievable parts.

However, having said all that, this is an exciting story, especially as the action moves from London to Russia. And the heroine seemed to grow a bit more realistic. She really gets lucky in the end. If you can handle that, this is a worthy read and you won’t want to put it down, I promise.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Review: Candice Proctor’s WHISPERS OF HEAVEN – Tasmania and Love in the 19th Century—a Real Adventure and a Great Story!

Proctor has once again delivered an enthralling romance set “down under,” in this case on that mysterious island country, Tasmania, lying south of Australia.

Set in 1840, this is the story of Jesmond (“Jessie”) Corbett, an independent thinking, science-loving heroine, who while raised in Tasmania, spent two years in London studying geology. Returning home to the country she loves, she notices a new convict laborer, a handsome, green-eyed Irishman who, when he is not putting on the brogue, speaks as a gentleman. Lucas Gallagher, son of an Irish shipbuilder, was studying to become a barrister when the English brutally attacked his sister and him, scaring them forever. Spared a hanging, Lucas was transported to Tasmania to serve a life sentence as a convict slave. After brutal treatment by the English there, he determines to escape or die trying—that is, until he meets Jessie.

Proctor sheds light on the life of those transported to the Australian colonies as convicts destined to suffer cruel treatment and spend years, even their whole lives in some cases, as servants to the landowners. It’s a bit of history we should all know about and it causes me to respect those who made mistakes and more than paid for them. NIGHT IN EDEN, her first book, is another great one that does this, only set in New South Wales.

As with her other romances, Proctor gives us a worthy heroine and a noble hero. Jessie struggles between doing what her family expects of her (an arranged marriage), and following her heart. Lucas struggles with whether freedom and/or death are preferable to being with Jessie as her convict servant. Neither can resist the other and both live desperate lives since they know they can never be together. Thank God this is romance and you know a happy ending is coming. But there is much angst and suspense along the way.

This is a great novel set in a beautiful, exotic locale (see picture below)--and a great love story--a keeper. I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Review: Marsha Canham’s ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA - England's Sea Hawks and Romance on the High Seas--Wonderful!!

Marsha Canham has done it again! A wonderful first in her Pirate Wolf trilogy--adventure and love on the high seas!

Set in the time of Queen Elizabeth's "sea hawk" captains who ruled the seas with her tacit approval and disturbed the growing Spanish armada, this well-told tale features a wonderful heroine, Isabeau (“Beau”) Spence, a long-legged, red-haired beauty of 20, who stole away to sea as a young girl to be a part of her father's crew on his merchant ship. She is fearless, independent and an adventurer who loves life at sea--and with a secret talent that sets her apart. She has known betrayal in love only once, but it turned her away from men.

Tall, black-haired, blue-eyed French nobleman and sea captain Simon Dante, now a sea hawk for the British Crown, has also known betrayal in love and has no interest in marriage. He has his ship, a loyal crew and his love of the sea and he needs little else. Even his titles and many estates do not call to him. But Beau's spirit does. The fireworks between Beau and Dante begin almost immediately with her dagger pointed at his private parts. And yet they cannot seem to stay away from each other.

I loved this book...the high seas...battles at sea...I could almost hear the seagulls and smell the ocean. And then, too, it has mystery, intrigue...and passion--oh, such sweet passion. Thank you Marsha for another great one. This one will is a “keeper”—the kind that gets re-read, one I could not put it down.

I highly recommend the next two in the series as well: THE IRON ROSE and THE FOLLOWING SEA.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

New Review: Judith James’ BROKEN WING - Historical Romance at its Best! A Sweeping Shipboard Saga—a Keeper!

This was Judith James first historical romance and it is wonderful. Rich in the history of the times (late 1700s/early 1800s), it takes place in France and England with stops in the Mediterranean and North Africa, it will sweep you away with an enthralling story of love, hardship, inner strength, forgiveness, acceptance and joy of life. I think the heroine may be my favorite of all time: beautiful, intelligent, creative, a rebel with a past. Oh yes. But the hero, Gabriel, is to die for. You will love him, I promise.

It begins in Paris where a young boy, Gabriel, is left at a brothel and raised to pleasure both men and women. We learn in backstory that he was sold to a sick aristocrat, who educated the handsome boy and taught him music at which he excels. But when Gabriel tried to escape he was "disciplined" and returned to the brothel. Years later, having become most attractive to both men and women, and one of the brothel's most prized possessions, he so hates himself he cuts his arms to remind himself he is alive. He has only one thing keeping him there...he saves another boy from ending up like him, protecting young Jamie against any who would rob the child of his innocence. As it turns out, Jamie is the young brother of an English nobleman who learns where the boy is and comes for him along with his sister, Sarah, Lady Munroe--"the Gypsy Countess."

Sarah is a most unusual woman, who thinks more like a man and often dresses like one. Thankful for Gabriel's protection of the boy, she and her brother contract with Gabriel for him to return with them to England for a year to help settle Jamie. During that time, the family comes to appreciate Gabriel's honorable nature, his intelligence and his character. Sarah, who can see into Gabriel's soul, longs to heal his many hurts. In the process, she and Gabriel share a love for the night sky, music and the ocean. And Sarah and Gabriel fall deeply in love. Gabriel, who has trains as a seaman and a swordsman with Sarah's cousin, Davey, a privateer captain, decides to go with Davey to the Mediterranean in order to earn enough money to support Sarah. They marry secretly before he leaves. On the trip home, Davey's ship encounters a horrible storm and Gabriel is feared lost overboard. Sarah is told he is dead. Ah, but Gabriel lives though in the next few years, as he tries to gain his freedom, his life becomes hard and he becomes ruthless. At this point, I wondered if they would ever be together again...but thank God it's a romance, right?

James is meticulous in detail and the historical setting is rich, accurate and absorbing. She tells the tale through many "points of view" and I found that refreshing. I loved knowing what all the characters were thinking and she did it very well. The characters are well developed and varied. You will love Davey the pirate/privateer, Ross the older brother who is a pirate at heart...and so many others along the way. James will become a "keeper" author, there is no doubt about it. I highly recommend this one.

Friday, August 3, 2012

New Review: Candice Proctor’s NIGHT IN EDEN – Enthralling Story of Love in New South Wales, Australia in the early 19th Century

Incredibly good, that’s what this debut novel by Candice Proctor is…incredibly good. Proctor is the younger sister of one of my absolute favorite authors, Penelope Williamson; with talent that good, I can only say it must run in the genes.

NIGHT IN EDEN tells the story of Bryony Wentworth, who was transported to New South Wales in 1808 as punishment for the accidental death of her cheating husband. And in telling us her story, Proctor has told the story of so many other women prisoners, some of whom for minor crimes were torn from their homes in England and sent on prison ships to Australia become the slaves and involuntary whores for hard men. Byrony was torn from her 3-year-old daughter when she is sent there and spared rape only because she was very pregnant with her second child, a boy who dies months after his birth. While still mourning his death, she is forced to become the servant of Captain Hayden St. John, a war hero whose aristocratic wife has died leaving him a baby son who must be nursed. So, Byrony becomes his wet nurse. She also expects to be raped, and though St. John certainly wants her in his bed, even asks her to be his convict mistress, he is a better master than most and will not take her unwilling. Byrony sticks to her “pride and principles”--all she has left--and though she longs for him, too, she tells him no—at least initially.

Proctor vividly brings to the forefront life in Australia in the early 19th century away from Sydney Town. It’s a new view of the Regency, to be sure. And she shows how badly those brought to the colony there as prisoners often fared. How they were cruelly treated and looked down upon by crude free men even after serving their time and became free themselves. Proctor has done an amazing job.

There is great suspense as we encounter the Aborigines, great sadness as the frontier “swallows up” children who wander away, and great passion between a man and a woman who, under other circumstances, might have courted and married in the normal way. Proctor once was quoted as saying "I like to write about strong women, women who sometimes aren't even aware of their own strength but discover it when tested by life. And I make certain my heroines end up with the kind of men they deserve-- honorable men, men who can be both gentle and strong, who never lose their sense of humor and don't feel threatened by a strong woman." Such are Bryony and Hayden.

I loved this story and highly recommend it. Buy it used if you have to (I did) but do get it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Review: Betina Krahn’s THE BOOK OF THE SEVEN DELIGHTS – Intriguing Tale of Adventure and Love in Morocco!

Want to take a trip to Morocco searching for the remnants of the Library of Alexandria? Want to do it with a sexy, funny hero with a name like Apollo Smith? Then this is the romance for you!

Betina Krahn has become a favorite of mine. This book is the first in her Library of Alexandria/High Victorian Romantic Adventures duology. (THE BOOK OF TRUE DESIRES is the second and it won the RITA in 2007.) I can see why.

In this first one, set in the late 19th century, we meet librarian Abigail Merchant (“Educated, opinionated, respectable, headstrong and too caught up in her high-minded pursuits to recognize, much less respond to the lust she inspired”), who is traveling to Marrakech to find what she believes will be some lost volumes from the famed Library of Alexandria. On her way, she encounters Apollo Smith, who due to treachery, was forced to serve 5 years in the French Foreign Legion and, having escaped, has returned for some mysterious “family matter.” He agrees to help Abigail reach her goal for half the prize she uncovers.

Krahn does a superb job of bringing the Moroccan desert to life, the Berber tribes, the Legionnaires, and the hazards of travel at the end of the 19th century in such parts of the world. Very cleverly she has also helped us experience the mind of a librarian, who catalogs everything she thinks of under various numbered library categories. Then there is Apollo. Had to love the guy who described Abigail as a woman “who had a way of finding every sensitive nerve in his body and every sore subject on his mind.” Great writing and a great story. A worthy romp.