Monday, April 19, 2021

Iris Johansen’s THE WIND DANCER - Amazing Love Story in Renaissance Italy...Masterfully Told Tale! A Classic!

This is the first in the Wind Dancer trilogy and it is amazing, a "keeper".

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 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, Sanchia complies, as any slave would. In the process of helping Lion to steal the key to where 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 in an unlikely place and, once found, denying it. 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 is an assassin with a jaded past and a wisdom that insists reality be pursued even if costly. He adds richness to the tale. I highly recommend this one.

 

Wind Dancer trilogy:

 

The Wind Dancer

Storm Winds

Reap the Wind (a contemporary )

 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Evelyn Anthony’s CLANDARA – Enthralling Story of Star-crossed Love Amidst the Jacobite Uprising of 1745

Set in 1745, in the time of feuds between the clans and the Scottish support for Bonnie Prince Charlie, this is the story of Katherine Fraser who falls in love with the eldest son of her family’s enemy—the MacDonalds. James MacDonald had a horrible reputation of cattle stealing, killing and debauchery when he met the lovely, flame-haired Katherine Fraser. For love of her, he changed. Neither family wanted the marriage but agreed to a betrothal when they could see the pair was determined.

 

Then came Charles Stuart and the call to arms all over Scotland. Having lost all in the earlier rising in 1715, Katherine’s family declined to go. Their enemies, the MacDonalds, were in the forefront of the clans supporting the prince. In one horrible act, James tears asunder the love that bound him to Katherine and sealed forever the enmity between his clan and hers.

 

This is a poignant love story very well told. Anthony vividly portrays the emotions of the Scots at the time of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745 and her description of the English slaughter of the Scots on Culloden Moor was brilliant and detailed. She shows you why King George’s son the Duke of Cumberland earned his title “Butcher.” By the time you get to the battle, you are so invested in the characters and the clans, your heart is racing.

 

The romance is an unusual one as James and Katherine are separated for much of the story, yet ever in each other’s mind. I loved them both but Katherine really shined as a woman trying to do the right thing under dismal circumstances. The ending is a bit like jumping off a cliff and I found I wanted more of the two of them.

 

If you like well-researched, detailed history in your historical romance, and you can’t get enough of Scotland’s past, then you will love this one. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Elizabeth Stuart’s WITHOUT HONOR: A Wonderful Scottish Historical…a Classic Keeper!

Elizabeth Stuart is one of my very favorite authors. All of her novels are on my keeper shelf. Classics all.

 

So many “historical” romances have very little history. Not this one. I love how Stuart seamlessly weaves in rich historical events throughout the novel. She brings Scotland of the early 16th century alive as she uses both real people and fictional characters to tell a complex, intriguing story.

 

The story is set in Scotland at the time when Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus, was just divorced from the dowager queen Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII of England. Angus effectively ruled Scotland, being the regent for young King James. Angus was arrogant and claimed too much power for himself, drawing the ire of many, including the young king.

 

Against this tumultuous time, Jonet Maxwell, heiress to the clan Maxwell (the enemy of clan Douglas) fled her home, seeking to join with her beloved uncle, Robert, Lord Mure. Unwittingly, Alexander Hepburn, Baron of Durnam, and the enemy of Jonet’s uncle, intercepts her flight. Once he realizes who she is, he uses her to get to her uncle. She is young and naïve and Alexander is a jaded rake, who has sold his talents to France, England and Scotland. He lives for revenge of his father’s death, a death he blames on Mure, Jonet’s uncle.

 

The hero was a cad for most of the book so at times it was hard to like him. He was constantly hurting Jonet. Oh, he warned her he would (don’t they always?) but still he persisted. And because Jonet was naïve and weak (when it came to him), it sometimes made her come across as spineless. When she went willingly into his arms after he betrayed her, it made me want to slap her. And that was BEFORE he spent the night in the arms of his long time paramour. He would have happily taken Jonet’s innocence if she hadn’t stopped him—all in the same day!

 

I suppose the book was named for him. But don’t get me wrong, he comes out smelling like a rose in the end and those with truly no honor are identified.

 

A compelling Historical tale and a most worthy love story. Another for the keeper shelf it is so well written. I highly recommend it.


 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Georgette Heyer’s THESE OLD SHADES – Wonderful Story of a Jaded Duke and a Feisty Urchin he “Buys” for His Page

 

This has to be one of my favorites by Heyer. Set in the 18th century in the time of Louis XV, this is the story of Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, who, because of this reputation as a debauched rake, is dubbed “Satanas”.


Late one evening, the Duke stumbles across Leon, a red headed urchin fleeing a certain beating from his brother who is a tavern owner in a bad part of town. Finding the urchin of keen interest, Avon buys the boy and makes him his page. But it soon becomes clear to Avon that Leon is not what he seems. For one thing, 19-year-old “Leon” can read and write and he speaks very well. His features are refined, too.

The duke has a score to settle with an enemy and knows this redheaded page is somehow tied into that family. Avon must unravel the mystery. But the jaded duke doesn’t count on falling in love with the waif who turns out to be a beautiful young woman named Leonie.

 

A well-told, clever and, at times, funny story I really enjoyed. Witty dialog, intrigue and treachery abound. Great characters populate the pages. The only thing I kept asking myself is how everyone missed that Leonie had to be menstruating by this time in her life. (And what the title had to do with the story.) But, oh well, those are minor points. Highly recommended.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Georgette Heyer’s ARABELLA – Wonderfully Intricate Tale of an Unlikely Match

Heyer brings great detail to her stories and I love that. That’s why they are classics. This is a Regency about, Arabella Tallant, the daughter of a Yorkshire vicar who goes to London at her godmother’s invitation, hopefully to find a worthy husband. On the way, her carriage breaks down outside the hunting lodge of the wealthy Mr. Robert Beaumaris. Her pride is stung when she overhears him besmirching her purpose, so she pretends to be an heiress, a pretense that deeply amuses the jaded Beaumaris who decides it would be amusing to make sure she is thought by all of London to be just what she claims to be.


When compassionate Arabella rescues an abused chimney sweep and a mixed-breed mongrel, she foists them upon Beaumaris, who finds he rather enjoys being her partner in the role of rescuer. When Arabella’s younger brother, posing as someone else, gets into deep gambling trouble, Beaumaris comes to his rescue.

 

Arabella turns down her many marriage proposals knowing they only want the money they think she has and finds herself in a quandary knowing she can never marry a man unless he knows the truth, which she can never divulge.

 

A wonderful story. Arabella is a delightful heroine and Beaumaris is a great hero, a man who, in the end, does exactly the right thing for the women he has come to love.

 

It’s that time of year when I share my favorite heroes and heroines and I catch up with my reading in all genres.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Sharon & Tom Curtis (aka Laura London) - THE WINDFLOWER – Superb Pirate Romance set in the War of 1812!

One of my all-time favorite books and a classic, The Windflower was the product of the husband-wife writing team of Sharon and Tom Curtis and some believe it was their best. I can tell you this: this pirate romance set in in 1813 during the War of 1812 is one of the finest historical romances I have read. Originally published in 1984, it was reissued in 1995, and can be obtained on Amazon for Kindle. It’s a keeper among keepers.

 

It tells the story of innocent, sheltered Merry Wilding, an American living in Virginia with her maiden aunt. Merry has a talent for drawing faces from memory, a talent her brother, an American spy will use to his benefit, exposing her to pirates and worse. Then, on her way to England with her aunt who wants Merry to have a better future, she is kidnapped. Taken to a pirate ship, she meets the English pirate Devon, who remembers her from a night long ago where he encountered her in a tavern. He holds her captive, believing she is involved with his enemy who was also on the ship Merry was sailing on. Protecting her brother, she will not reveal who she is. Devon is intelligent, beguiling and smooth and innocent Merry is powerless to turn away his kisses. The whole crew of pirates comes to love Merry and to teach her many things as she blossoms from shy girl to strong woman.

 

The writing is superb, the characters courageous, heartwarming and very special; the descriptions of the environs vivid; the metaphors numerous and well done; and the story a wonder to read, and re-read. The plot is intriguing. You will be swept away on a pirate ship to experience many adventures, battles at sea, storms, death, outrageous humor and love. I thought the writing gifted.

 

Here’s a sample from one scene; I bet it moves you though not a word is spoken:

 

“His fingers whispered over her face, seeking and slowly stroking nerve points, knowing where, how long, how much to caress. Her skin gained color under his touch; her eyes became enormous; her throat tightened. By her nose his little finger encountered a forgotten tear. Gathering the sparkling drop, he smeared it slowly over the curve of her lips and blew it gently dry. One hand came lightly to rest on her neck; the other supported her cheek as he sought her with his kiss.”

 

Here’s another:

 

“Tragedy dwelt like a blue flame in her big eyes; the shallow pulsebeat in the golden hollow of her throat was luffing like a spanker on a vessel that was hauled too close to the wind. He had seen the look before on women about to be raped, and he found no charm in having it turned on him.”

 

If you love pirate romance—or even Regency period romance set mostly outside of England—this classic will not disappoint.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Jennifer Roberson’s LADY OF THE GLEN – Superb Storytelling and a Keeper—a Highland Love that Survives the Massacre of Glencoe!

Roberson's Lady of the Glen has everything I love in a Scottish historical romance: an epic love story, a noble hero, a strong heroine, real history (the massacre of Glencoe), attention to detail and enough suspense and drama to keep me turning pages. And a wonderful hero and heroine. Even the music of the Highlands is included. I could hear the pipes and their mournful sound as Roberson described them.

 The story begins in 1682 when Catriona (“Cat”) Campbell first encounters Alasdair (“Dair”) Og MacDonald. She is an awkward, uncomely girl raised like one of her brothers by her drunken father, but Dair pays her a compliment when no one else does, telling her that she has “bonnie eyes…all bluey-green and bright. The sort of eyes a Highlander likes to come home to.” How could Cat ever forget him after that? Not even though he is one of the dreaded MacDonalds, the enemies of clan Campbell, could she fail to harbor a tenderness for him.

 

Much happens in this intricately woven tale that spans a decade. It’s the time when King James was exiled to France and William and Mary ruled England. The Scots battle each other as much as the English. Grey John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane seeks to be the power behind the throne and he thinks it is William who will sit on that throne. He exerts his influence to unite the clans, pretending to support King Jamie, while planning on serving the Highland clans up on a silver platter to William. The clans don’t trust him but the lairds have little choice, seeing the English Ft. William erected as a symbol of the English dominance.

 

Famous battles like Killiecrankie are vividly described as Dair fights with the MacDonalds of Glencoe and the Stewarts of Appin. Both the MacDonalds and the Campbells kill each other’s young men caught reeving cattle, and Dair saves Cat from harm, and she saves his life. All this while another woman shares Dair’s bed. Then Cat’s father agrees to wed her to the Earl of Breadalbane’s son, Duncan Campbell in exchange for money to pay his many debts.

 


Perhaps the most intense moment is the Massacre of Glencoe when the Campbells, joined with the treachery of the English, including the king, murder nearly the entire clan of MacDonalds without provocation. Still remembered to this day, the massacre of Glencoe was a great perfidy on the part of the Campbells and England. A very sad chapter in Scotland’s history. As Roberson says of Glencoe, “’Tis a glen of sorrows, an empty place of blood and broken stone, of charred timber and burial cairns.”

 

I did not want to put this one down. The author truly captured the heart of the Highlands and the characters she vividly portrays bring to life one of the most incredible periods of Scotland’s history.

 

If you love Scotland and real Highlander romance—the deep ones—you will love this book! It does have a happy ending, too. Highly recommended.

 


 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Teresa Denys’ THE SILVER DEVIL – Enthralling, Terrible and Wonderful, a Classic set in 17th century Italy

 

It’s Classics Month! I’ll be sharing my reviews for my favorite classic historical romances…all are 5-star novels.

 

Silver Devil was my first by Denys and I quickly gobbled up her only other novel, The Flesh And The Devil, which is also wonderful. Both are set in 17th century Europe. Both are classics worthy of reading today.

 

The Silver Devil begins in 1605 north of Naples, Italy, at the time of the plague. It tells the story of Felicia Guardi, a commoner beauty who comes to the attention of Domenico della Raffaelle, the new Duke of Cabria, the one they call the “Silver Devil.”

 

When her mother died, Felicia learned from her brother that she was bastard born. Forced by him and his wife to live in their house as a servant, Felicia becomes a sort of Cinderella. Though Felicia has had a hard life, she has virtue, integrity and wisdom that outshine all those around her. Surely that is what Domenico saw when he chanced to glimpse her. Without her knowing it, Domenico buys Felicia from her half brother who drugs her so she can be taken to the duke’s palace.

 

Already ruined by having been taken to the duke, Felicia nevertheless fights the man who would have her (“a demon’s eyes in the face of a fallen angel”… “as graceful as a leopard and as treacherous as murder”). After he takes her maidenhead, she realizes she has no choice but to stay with him until he tires of her, which according to what she is told, may be very soon as he runs through mistresses quickly. But Felicia is unlike any woman Domenico has ever known and he does not cast her off.

 

Having just come to power, Domenico is aware of the seething treachery swirling around him. There are those who would prefer to see his half brother Alessandro rule the duchy. And Domenico knows he must take a wife and sire an heir so there are choices to be made. But Felicia has fallen in love with him (“…it was then, as I went to him like a falcon flying to his fist, that I realized I loved him”); and even knowing she will be set aside, she stays.

 

I can’t say enough good about this classic. Brilliantly written with attention to detail reflecting much research into the era and the politics of the time, it is a fascinating story of warring families and the vicious actions some take to stay in power. The prose is nearly lyrical at times and Denys’ writing is truly beautiful in its descriptions. Few authors could do it so well.

 

The plot is intricate and captured me from the start. Though told from the first person (we are only ever in Felicia’s head), it works for an intriguing story as we can only wonder what the Silver Devil is thinking behind his black eyes. Felicia is a wonderful heroine, and though he was often wicked, Domenico was a very worthy alpha male hero. I did not want to put it down. It's a keeper.


Monday, March 29, 2021

Best Irish Historical Romances!

 

Rock of Cashel Tipperary, Ireland

I first developed this list for a friend of Irish descent who loves Irish historical romances. Since then, I have updated this list each year as I have come to love stories that feature Ireland and/or Irish heroes and heroines. The books on this list cover all time periods. Some transcend typical historical romance as they bring to life heartrending tales of the Irish fight for freedom from English tyranny and/or the wonderful Irish people who survived much hardship to help make great their adoptive countries.

 

If you’re looking for stories of the Emerald Isle or handsome Irish hunks, or worthy Irish heroines, you will find them here. All these have been rated 4 or 5 stars by me:

 

·      A Love by Any Measure by Killian McRae

·      Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes

·      Black Falcon’s Lady by Kimberly Cates (originally released as Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin)

·      Black Sword by Kathryn Le Veque

·      Briar’s Rose by Kimberly Cates

·      Bride of the Baja by Jane Toombs (original author name Jocelyn Wilde)

·      Broken Vows by Shirl Henke

·      Brotherly Love by Lorna Peel

·      Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

·      Countess of Scandal, Duchess Of Sin and Lady of Seduction, the Daughters of Erin trilogy by Laurel McKee

·      Crown Of Mist by Kimberly Cates

·      Dark of the Moon by Karen Robards

·      Dark Torment by Karen Robards

·      Dream Lover by Virginia Henley

·      Embrace and Conquer by Jennifer Blake

·      Emerald Ecstasy by Emma Merritt

·      Emerald Prince by Brit Darby

·      Enticed by Virginia Henley (first published as The Irish Gypsy)

·      Eyes of the Seer by Ashley York

·      Forbidden Love by Karen Robards

·      Forbidden Passion by Theresa Scott

·      Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, the Viking/Irish trilogy by Heather Graham

·      Heart of Stone and Heart of Lies by Jill Marie Landis

·      Her Warrior Slave and Her Warrior King, from the MacEgan Brothers Series by Michelle Willingham

·      In From the Cold by Nora Roberts

·      Lady of Conquest by Teresa Medeiros

·      Lily Fair by Kimberly Cates

·      Lions and Lace by Meagan McKinney

·      Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

·      Maid of Killarney by Ana Seymour

·      Moonlit by Emma Jensen (3rd in her Regency spy series; the only one set in Ireland)

·      Maidensong by Diana Groe

·      Master of My Dreams by Danelle Harmon

·      No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne

·      Odin’s Shadow by Erin Riley

·      O’er The River Liffey by Heidi Ashworth

·      Old Glory by Christopher Nicole

·      Only Forever by Kimberly Cates

·      Passion’s Joy and the sequel Virgin’s Star by Jennifer Horsman

·      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

·      Rose of the Mists, A Rose in Splendor and A Secret Rose, trilogy by Laura Parker

·      Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With the Wind by Alexandra Ripley

·      Scattered Seeds by Julie Doherty

·      Sea Raven by Patricia McAllister

·      Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

·      Stealing Heaven by Kimberly Cates

·      Stormfire by Christine Monson

·      Storm Maiden by Mary Gillgannon

·      Surrender the Stars by Cynthia Wright

·      Tears of Gold by Laurie McBain

·      The Black Angel by Cordia Byers

·      The Divided Heart by Beppie Harrison

·      The Game by Brenda Joyce

·      The Ground She Walks Upon by Meagan McKinney

·      The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley

·      The Heart and the Holly by Nancy Richards-Akers

·      The Highwayman by Anne Kelleher

·      The Irishman by Jennifer Roberson (first published as Royal Captive)

·      The Irish Devil by Donna Fletcher

·      The Irish Duke by Virginia Henley

·      The Irish Princess, The Irish Enchantress and The Irish Knight by Amy Fetzer

·      The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen

·      The Irish Rogue by Judith E. French

·      The Irish Sisters Trilogy by Debra Holland

·      The Legend of the Green Man by Sara Hely

·      The Linnet by Elizabeth English

·      The Passions Of Emma by Penelope Williamson

·      The Prize by Brenda Joyce

·      The Rebel by Christine Dorsey

·      The Seventh Son by Ashley York

·      The Sword of the Banshee by Amanda Hughes

·      The Wayward One by Danelle Harmon

·      To Ride a White Horse by Pamela Ford

·      Touch of Lace by Elizabeth DeLancey

·      Tread Softly On My Dreams by Gretta Curran Browne

·      Uncertain Magic by Laura Kinsale

·      Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor

·      Wild Angel by Miriam Minger

·      Windsong by Judith E. French

·      Wolf’s Embrace by Gail Link

 

And I hope you’ll read my Regency novella, The Shamrock & The Rose with an Irish hero!