Monday, June 17, 2019

Charlene Raddon’s FOREVER MINE – Mail Order Bride Angst in Oregon!

The story begins in 1891 as impetuous Ariah Scott arrives in Oregon as a mail order bride for one Pritchard Monteer. However, his uncle, Bartholomew Noon, keeper of the Cape Meares lighthouse, meets her at the station instead. Bartholomew and Ariah quickly fall in love, which wouldn’t be so bad except that Bartholomew is married, albeit to a harridan named Hester, who denies him her bed.

The story is well written with great descriptions of the environment on the Oregon coast and life among the lighthouse keepers. And one can tell the book is based on solid research, even down to the Chinese ring neck pheasants that Bartholomew raises.

Though she is in love with Bartholomew, Ariah marries Pritchard, but Pritchard isn’t quite up to being a husband. Instead, he finds his manhood in the bed of a poor, mistreated waif of a girl who lives “in town.” Noble Bartholomew remains in a loveless marriage while pining for another man’s wife with whom he shares a love of poetry and birds. And Ariah tries to find her place while fearing a Greek uncle bent on her demise.

It’s a story of mismatches and the mistakes of youth that affect one’s later life. All of the characters hide something from their past they would rather not face, something they don’t want to reveal. Raddon treats well the difficult subject of infidelity, and though the morality may be confusing at times, she brings and intriguing story to the page.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Marie Piper’s HAVEN’S FLAME – Love in Texas and a Frontier Town

Set in Texas in 1886, this is the story of Matthew Frank, deputy Sheriff, and his childhood sweetheart, Haven Anderson, assistant to the town doctor. This is my first by this author and I must say, it was easy to read and enjoyable. Piper has a clear style that moves the story along at a nice pace.

The story begins with a touching scene when Matt and Haven become engaged. Though Matthew cannot wait to show his bride his passion, he nobly holds himself back and tells her nothing of his struggle. Meanwhile, with no discussion, Haven assumes he does not desire her and she fantasizes about being the town whore (there is one) and having a passionate encounter with the saloon owner, a handsome guy. All that was a bit strange, and Hank cared nothing for Mathew or Haven’s innocence. He would have been happy to seduce her… and tried.

I enjoyed the characters and a few twists and turns kept me guessing as a villain from the past showed up to wreak havoc and provide some grizzly action.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Shirl Henke’s A FIRE IN THE BLOOD – Enthralling Classic from Wyoming Cattle Baron Days

Not many romance authors would start their story with a black moment but Henke does it here and does it well. This is an absorbing story, very well told, of a hero who thought he’d never belong and a heroine who had everything but him. Meticulously researched, Henke serves up a worthy love story from the days of the cattle barons, the powerful cattlemen of the Cheyenne Club who ruled over Wyoming Territory in the late 1800s.

Jess Robbins and his father, though Texans, fought with the Union in the Civil War. Jess also did a stint with the French Foreign Legion. By the spring of 1881, he had a fast gun and a talent for spying out cattle thieves. So it was no surprise Wyoming rancher Marcus Jacobson hired Jess as a stock detective to find out who was stealing hundreds of his cattle from the sprawling J Bar ranch.

The first time Jacobson’s only daughter and heir, Lissa, caught sight of Jess Robbins, she was drawn to the man. A mixture of white man, Mexican and Indian, Jess was exotically handsome, virile and very sure of himself. Lissa had many suitors, including an older man her father wanted her to marry, but she wanted Jess. Though each was forbidden to the other, they could not stay away.

Henke captures the nuances of a relationship that was forged in passion but held something deeper, a lasting bond that would not be denied. Lissa grows up and her strength comes to the foreground as Jess realizes he cannot live without this woman. How it all comes together is fascinating and held my attention right to the sweet ending.

You’ll like this one. It’s a keeper!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Alexandra Ripley’s FROM FIELDS OF GOLD – Unusual Love Story of the American South and Aristocratic London in late 19th Century with a Great Heroine.

The story begins in the South in 1875 and tells of Francesca (“Chess”) Standish, raised to be a lady but at 30, the Civil War has left her with only a rundown plantation and a patent on her grandfather’s machine to make cigarettes. Once her life was filled with laughter, now she is gray and glum. She wants to be married and has all but given up hope until Nate Richardson comes along.

Nate is smart, handsome and ambitious, and desperately wants to gain the patent for the machine that makes cigarettes. When Chess, who is 8 years his senior, tells him he can have the patent if he will marry her, he agrees. 

Ever since he was a teenager, Nate has been in love with the girl who became his brother’s wife. He shows Chess no passion, believing she is not interested and finds his pleasure elsewhere. Chess is so in love with him, she is willing to take the crumbs he offers her. Chess is a heroine to love: brave, smart and willing to wait for what she wants. She knows Nate doesn’t love her but she vows to become the business partner he will respect. And she does, sharing with him his dreams and his passion for the tobacco industry and helping his dreams become reality. 

Though he admires her, Nate is not faithful. But a trip to London will show her the affection she has long missed and awakens in her the girl she once was.

The story reflects the author’s deep research into the tobacco industry in the South and the era of the late Victorian period in London. She captures the life of the idle rich as well as the Americans who led the development of new industries and discoveries. Rich in detail, even as to fashion, with splendid characters, including some actual historical figures, Ripley have given us a great tale. You must wait till the very end for that happy ever after, but I assure you, it’s coming.

I didn’t want to put it down! It’s a keeper!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ellen O’Connell’s EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD –Hard Bitten Hero and a Woman Whose Tenacious Love Will Not Let Him Go! A Keeper!

O’Connell is one of my favorite authors. She brings the Old West to life. This one is set in Colorado in 1885. It’s the story of Anne Wells, who at 28 may be a spinster but she’s not about to accept a man her father would force her to marry. In her escape from her home, she inadvertently runs to Cord Bennett’s small ranch.

Cord is the half-Cheyenne son of a wealthy rancher and considered by many to be the very devil. He lives alone raising horses and when Anne shows up, he’s delighted, until her father and some hired guns come looking for her. Her father's fury leads to violence against both Cord and Anne. Everyone, save Anne, believes the worst of Cord.

Cord is one of those heroes who no matter what life throws at him, and the horrible way people talk about him, he still manages to keep his honor and defend the weakest, even at great cost to himself.

O’Connell has a clever way of drawing us into Cord’s mind, seeing the world as he does—as his enemy. At one point in the story I thought to myself, if one more bad thing happens to him, I’m gonna scream. But I digress. Suffice it to say, he’s the kind of hero any “real” woman would love. Anne is feisty and courageous, a heroine worth cheering. Together they are a remarkable couple, but it takes them a long time to realize they are perfect for each other. O’Connell portrays them so well, it’s addictive. Oh yes, there are the “good citizens” of Mason, Colorado who do nothing and the really bad villains who do only evil.

Many of the action scenes in this story deal with raising and training horses and, in one case, an amazing race through difficult terrain. O’Connell describes it so well you feel like you’re riding the horse, following Cord’s brilliant strategy and urging him on. Obviously O’Connell knows horses and knows how a good man trains one. It was a delight to read this. Though instructive, it never took away from the romance developing between Cord and Anne.

One of my favorite passages in the story was a thought the heroine has: “…Anne believed she would in the end hear the words she, like all women, longed to hear, but if he never spoke of it, she would be content with this. He loved her, and she knew it, and he was capable of such tenderness it left her trembling, overwhelmed by her own love for him.” Ah…now that was well done!

It’s a great story, well told. You will love it, I promise.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Elizabeth Lane’s THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE – Unusual Marriage and Utah Mining Make for an Entertaining Tale!

It’s Park City, Utah Territory in 1886 and Emma O’Toole is pregnant by her fiancé Billy John “the only boy who’d ever loved her.” In an attempt to win some money to care for her and their child, foolish Billy cheated at cards and then threatened the life of an old man if the card players didn’t let him leave with his ill gotten gain. Before he could shoot, however, another player shot him.

 An unprincipled “muckraking” newspaperman pens a ballad than has everyone singing of the story, much to Emma’s chagrin. Then the jury decides Logan Devereaux is guilty of manslaughter and the judge offered Logan prison or marriage to Emma. Logan chose marriage even knowing his bride would hate him. Emma agreed only because the judge said he would otherwise let the murderer of her lover go free. But she intended to make Logan’s life a living hell. When she discovers the horrible conditions in the silver mines, she finds a way to help the miners and hurt her husband.

All the time Emma is plotting, Logan treats her well and they find passion together, never telling Emma he has another identity, that of Christian Girard, a man wanted in New Orleans for murder.

A well-researched, well-told tale that will bring you into the lives of those in a western mining town in the late 19th century. Logan is a drool worthy hero who rises above a bad situation to do the honorable thing—again and again. There are several bad guys in this one and a secret from Logan’s past that will keep you guessing!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Best Scottish Historical Romances!

Geddes MacGregor once wrote, “No one in Scotland can escape from the past. It is everywhere, haunting like a ghost." Scotland’s past is the subject of this list, romance novels set in Scotland, most in that magical part of Scotland called the Highlands. Some are romances with a Scot as hero. All are rated 4 or 5 stars. Enjoy!

·               A Dangerous Love, The Border Lord's Bride, The Captive Heart, The Border Lord And The Lady, The Border Vixen and Bond Of Passion (from The Border Chronicles) by Bertrice Small
·               A Gentle Feuding by Johanna Lindsey
·               A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
·               A Year and a Day by Virginia Henley
·               Abducted Heiress by Amanda Scott
·               Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught
·               Beloved Rogue by Penelope Williamson
·               Blood Feud by Jayne Castel
·               Border Lord by Arnette Lamb
·               Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins
·               Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas
·               Charming the Shrew and Daring the Highlander (MacLeod duology) by Laurin Wittig
·               Children of the Mist by Aleen Malcolm
·               Claimed by Tarah Scott
·               Clandara by Evelyn Anthony
·               Come The Morning, Conquer the Night, Seize the Dawn, Knight Triumphant, The Lion in Glory, When We Touch and The Queen’s Lady (the Graham series) by Heather Graham Pozzessere
·               Davy’s Last Ride by Brit Darby
·               Desiring the Highlander by Michele Sinclair
·               Devil of Kilmartin by Laurin Wittig
·               Devil’s Mistress by Heather Graham
·               Emerald Embrace by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
·               Forever My Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
·               Gather the Stars by Kimberly Cates
·               Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart
·               Heather House: Witch of the Moors by Carmen Caine
·               Highland Deception by Meggan Connors
·               Highland Moon by Judith E. French
·               Highland Rebel by Judith James
·               Highland Warrior, Highland Outlaw and Highland Scoundrel (the Campbell trilogy) by Monica McCarty
·               Highlander’s Hope (a Regency based in Scotland) by Collette Cameron
·               If You Dare, If You Desire and If You Deceive (the MacCarrick Brothers trilogy) by Kresley Cole
·               In From the Cold by Nora Roberts
·               His Stolen Bride by Shelly Thacker
·               Kilgannon and The Wild Rose of Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens
·               Knight of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
·               Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
·               Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (and all six in her MacGregor/Children of the Mist Series)
·               Lord of a Thousand Nights by Madeline Hunter
·               Lord of Fire by Emma Merritt
·               Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
·               My Lord Monleigh by Jan Cox Speas
·               My Wicked Enchantress by Meagan McKinney
·               On a Highland Shore and Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens
·               Oriana by Valerie Vayle
·               Rebellion by Nora Roberts
·               Rosamund by Bertrice Small
·               Silk and Steel by Cordia Byers
·               Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham
·               Snow Raven by Patricia McAllister
·               Tempted and The Border Hostage, duology by Virginia Henley
·               The Bedeviled Heart, The Daring Heart and The Bold Heart by Carmen Caine
·               The Border Bride by Elizabeth English
·               The Border Lord by Jan Westcott
·               The Captive by Parris Afton Bonds
·               The Chieftain’s Curse by Francis Housden
·               The Daughters of Cameron by Aleen Malcolm
·               The Guardian by Genevieve Graham
·               The Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick
·               The Lady’s Protector by Emma Prince
·               The Legend and The Destiny by Kathleen Givens
·               The Magnificent Rogue by Iris Johansen
·               The Passionate One, The Reckless One and The Ravishing One (the McClairen’s Isle trilogy) by Connie Brockway
·               The Pride of Lions, The Blood of Roses and Midnight Honor by Marsha Canham
·               The Renegade (first released as The Renegade and The Rose) by Christine Dorsey
·               The Queen’s Lady by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
·               The Taming, Ride Out the Storm and The Daughters of Cameron by Aleen
·               The Scotsman by Juliana Garnett (aka Virginia Brown)
·               Threads of Destiny by Arnette Lamb
·               To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt (one of the Four Soldiers series)
·               To Conquer a Highlander, Highland Hellcat and Highland Heat by Mary Wine
·               White Knight by Jaclyn Reding
·               Without Honor by Elizabeth Stuart

I hope you will also consider my novels set in Scotland’s past: Rebel Warrior, part of the award-winning Medieval Warriors series, The Refuge, an Inspirational Novel of Scotland, A Secret Scottish Christmas, and my Regency novella, The Holly & The Thistle, featuring a Highlander hero.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Shannon Drake’s THE QUEEN’S LADY – Get Swept Away to 16th century Scotland!

This Scottish historical by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) is set in 16th century Scotland and England during the rise of Mary Queen of Scots and her clash with her cousin, Elizabeth, reigning as Queen of England.

Lady Gwenyth MacLeod is one of Mary's ladies in waiting. Gwenyth’s Scottish background and knowledge allow her to provide unique insights to her new Queen, who is returning from France after the death of her husband, King Francis.

Very soon into her time with Mary in Scotland, Gwenyth encounters Lord Rowan Graham, laird of Lockraven, who is also serving Queen Mary. The attraction is mutual and strong though there is an initial clash of wills. Still, once he realizes he loves her, his love for her never fails. I think that's what distinguishes this romance for me from so many of Drake's (Graham's) other historicals. The hero never treated the heroine badly and never stopped loving her. How novel, eh?

I loved the hero's consistency and his faithfulness to his woman. Here is a man worth the wait. Their times were tumultuous and they faced many challenges including the inconsistency of the Queen they both served. You can imagine how difficult it would be in such times to find real love. This is a wonderful trip through the history of Scotland and England, too. I so appreciate Heather’s research. It’s a tale of two Queens and a story of a great romance between two people trying to do what is right. Along with the history is Heather’s usual good job of storytelling, great character development and a true love fought for and won. I loved it.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tammy Andresen’s SCOTTISH DEVIL – A Scottish Laird with a Face of Stone and a Heart of Gold

Set in Dundee Scotland in 1780, this is the story of Stone Sinclair, Earl of Alban, whose harsh countenance earned him the nickname “Devil”. He’s actually a nice guy with a heart for his people and his family of siblings. When his solicitor comes to his estate to deal with the books in the wake of Stone’s parents’ deaths, the lawyer suggests Stone marry Eliza, the solicitor’s daughter.

English Eliza McLaren believed the rumors about Stone and, when her father attempts to make a match between them, she vows to never give herself to a man like Stone. As she observes all the good he does, she will be forced to change her mind.

This story is short and reads like a novella with much given to us: Stone’s wants to marry and Eliza is conveniently dropped in his lap by her father. Still, Stone is a compelling character and there is much here that could have been developed into a longer story.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Emma Prince’s THE LADY’S PROTECTOR – Scottish Warrior Guards an English Woman

Set in 1314, this is the story of Ansel Sutherland, a warrior who has fought at the side of King Robert the Bruce, who is given the task of protecting the illegitimate son of the Earl of Lancaster. Though Ansel dislikes having to apply his skills to help an Englishman, he accepts his role as a bodyguard for the alliance it may bring his king.

When he arrives in England, he encounters Lady Isolda, the boy’s mother who will not disclose the location of her son. But when nefarious attackers show up to go after the lady, he must protect her. So he takes her back to the Highlands and, along the way, their attraction for each other builds.

The story is mostly just Isolda and Ansel though as they travel to the Highlands, we do meet a few more characters. And, eventually, her young son, John. It’s a well written tale, which held my interest though I would have liked a bit more description of the environment around them.

If you like Highland romance with a capable Scottish warrior and a protesting English lady traveling north to the Highlands, you will enjoy this one.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Patricia McAllister’s SNOW RAVEN – Scottish Laird Falls for an English Lady in Waiting to Elizabeth Tudor

This is the third in McAllister’s excellent “Raven series.” Set in 1578 in the Highlands of Scotland, it is the story of Ranald, Laird Lindsay and Earl of Crawford, also known as the Wolf of Bandanlock, and Meredith (“Merry”) Tanner, a half Irish Englishwoman who is a lady in waiting to Elizabeth Tudor. Merry is betrothed to Sir Jasper Wickham, who she has never met when she leaves her sister in Wales to return to court.

Merry’s coach is attacked by Ran’s brother, Gilbert, who is out for some fun. Though no one is seriously hurt, the coach is ruined and Ran offers to see Merry to her betrothed. Little does she know that Sir Jasper is Ran’s enemy, who he believes responsible for the death of his much-loved wife. Ran plans to hold Merry as his captive to get to the truth, but his plans go awry with an unexpected result.

A great tale reflecting much research into the historical events of the period, McAllister has obviously taken great care to give you the feel of the Scottish culture and the characters’ accent come across as very real and add to the feeling you’re in Scotland. She also portrays the tension between the Scots and the English at the time. The characters are richly drawn and the plot intriguing. Caught in the middle between Ran’s anger and Sir Jasper’s treachery, Merry will accept her fate but she brings more to the arrangement than Ran bargained for.

The Raven trilogy:

Sea Raven (Irish heroine, Bryony O'Neill, Merry’s mother)
Fire Raven (Morgan Trelane, a Welshman, the Devil of Falcon's Lair and Kat, Merry’s sister)
Snow Raven (Ranald Lindsay, the Highland laird known as the Wolf of Badanloch and Merry)