Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s PASSIONS’ JOY and VIRGIN STAR – Two Tales of Worthy Heroes and Heroines in the Regency Era

These two romances are a duology...they go I'm reviewing them together for you.

PASSION'S JOY - Love on the Underground Railroad: an Unusual English lord and an American Minx.

For those of you who love Horsman’s novels, be sure and read this before VIRGIN STAR if you can, as this comes first. This one is set in 1818 in New Orleans and VIRGIN STAR is set five years later in 1823—together they tell the story of two virile and worthy heroes who consider themselves brothers. Both were raised in Ireland though only Seannesy, the hero of VIRGIN STAR, is Irish.

PASSION’S JOY tells the story of Lord Ramsey (“Ram”) Barrington and the 17-year-old New Orleans minx, Joy Claret Reubens, who is a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad in the early 19th century. Sending slaves north to freedom is a dangerous business as Joy discovers when she dresses like a boy and accompanies the slaves to the boat that will take them to freedom. While keeping watch over some bounty hunters for her accomplices, she is spotted by Ram who is taking a run in the woods. And, forever after her life is changed.

There are many things I love about Horsman’s writing: her detailed, believable plots, her action and adventure, the realism of the historical elements, her sexy strong heroes, her winsome heroines and her secondary characters. (Each of her characters has a backstory and often we learn this from their point of view as Horsman skillfully and often moves between points of view.) All that makes for a richer tale. I admire her ability to do that so seamlessly.

In this one, we have a hero who is a British lord but acts more like a pirate. Often, he plays the cad. (I warn you, there is spanking, rape and the intentional taking of an unborn child’s life.) He will definitely make you angry. Oh, he has a generous heart and does some really good things with Seannesy, but his treatment of our heroine is sometimes less than stellar. If you can handle that, it’s a worthy adventure that will definitely hold your interest.

VIRGIN STAR – Shipboard Romance with a Twist

VIRGIN STAR is another of Horsman’s shipboard historical romances, but this one has an Irish hero and a heroine who doesn’t know who she is. Be sure to read it before PASSION’S JOY, the sequel.

Set in 1823, this is the story of a young Englishwoman who, as a child, was taken from England to Malacca near the South China Sea. (We don’t know why for most of the book.) When the story opens, she is 21 and has been beaten and dumped on the doorstep of Captain Sean Seanessy, a wealthy Irish sea captain living in opulent splendor in England where he’s become an asset to the British government. A man of the world who takes his pleasure wherever he finds it, Seanessy is smitten by the girl with amnesia who wears only a ruby necklace he calls the “virgin star.” He names her Shalyn after the wind fairies of Ireland. She has no memory save for Malacca and the nightmares that haunt her of a beach with human skulls stuck in the sand. Seanessy is intrigued when he discovers the intelligent, well-educated young woman has been trained in Oriental fighting techniques, and of course, his attraction is immediate.

Consumed with an assignment from the British government to destroy a cache of opium held on an island near Malacca by a French duke, Seanessy has no time for the troublesome young woman. He believes the French duke has already made an attempt on the life of his half brother and his wife. It’s a game of cat and mouse that finally leads to Seanessy’s sailing for Malacca unaware that Shalyn has stowed away onboard. As they sail toward the duke’s island, Shalyn’s memories begin to return, both those of England as a child and in Malacca.

Horsman has created a wonderful set of characters in Seanessy’s crew, including a big dog named Oliver who takes a liking to Shalyn. There’s enough historical detail to satisfy the romance reader who likes more than “wallpaper” history and enough chemistry between Seanessy and Shalyn to make for an intriguing romance. (We don’t learn her true identity until late in the book.)

Note: Both the hero and heroine have light hair, the heroine’s described as golden blonde, notwithstanding the redhead on the cover.

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