Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Top 20 Historical Romances

I am frequently asked what are my favorite historical romances. That’s a long list, as you know from my “best lists.” There are currently over 100 5-Star romances on my "Favorite Keepers" shelf on Goodreads. But since you asked, I'm giving you my current top 20. It’s no accident that almost all are deeper historicals that include real history. And because I love Scotland as a setting, many are set in that land of lochs and glens.

These stories are the ones that have stayed with me, the ones I want to re-read, the ones I can’t forget. Their heroes and heroines grace my Favorite Heroes and Heroines list. And they are written by some of my favorite authors.

Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas
Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis)
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley
Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart
Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson
The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson
Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen
The Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham
Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
On a Highland Shore by Kathleen Givens
Clandara by Evelyn Anthony
Stormfire by Christine Monson
Princess of Fire by Heather Graham
The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole
Dancing On Coals by Ellen O’Connell
Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sharon & Tom Curtis (aka Laura London) - THE WINDFLOWER – Superb Pirate Romance—a Keeper!

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. It’s a classic. 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 historical romance will not disappoint.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Kathleen Woodiwiss’ THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER – Captivating Tale of a Sea Captain and the Woman he mistook for a Doxy—a Keeper!

This was Kathleen Woodiwiss' first romance, first published in 1972, and it's still a gold standard. She set the bar high and few can come close, even now. It's a timeless, wonderful story rich in detail and emotion. You will love it, I promise.

Set in 1799, it tells the story of the beautiful young Heather Simmons who was raised a nobleman's daughter. When her father, grieving at his wife’s death, gambled away the family’s money and then died himself, the young Heather was sent off to live with poor relations who abuse her (think Cinderella). She believes she is given a chance to escape when her older cousin, a successful merchant, comes to call, claiming he can get her a job at a girl's school in London.

Heather soon discovers that the lecherous old man has something entirely different in mind. When he dresses her up as a whore, Heather flees only to find herself on the docks of London. There, seamen from Capt. Brandon Birmingham's ship, looking for a doxy for their captain's pleasure, seize her. Brandon, an American merchant sea captain from the Carolinas, is delighted with what he believes is a gorgeous young prostitute. Before he hears her story, he has his way with her only to realize he has just deflowered a virgin. He tells her she needs to be resigned to becoming his paramour, but she will have none of it and escapes. (I just loved that part…a courageous heroine who cleverly escapes the hero’s bad intention). And so the tale begins.

It's an amazing story that will take you from a poor farm in England, to London, to a merchant ship sailing across the Atlantic, and finally to the American south of wealthy plantations.

Woodiwiss paints vivid word pictures of life on the farm and the adventure at sea. It is a tale of great love coming from a rude beginning. I liked Woodiwiss’ prose and masterfully drawn characters. If you read historical romance, you MUST read this one. It’s a keeper!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day!

Some favorite quotes appropriate for the day from two of my favorite authors:

“Love” defined by Virginia Henley in DREAM LOVER:

“Love is a journey from the first blush of physical attraction
to a marriage of souls”

And a quote from Henley’s THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL where William Marshall reflects on his young wife, Eleanor Plantagenet:

“He pulled up a stool and watched her for the sheer pleasure of it.
She gave him so much, he could never give enough back. So this was love
then—wanting to give only pleasure to the beloved; constantly searching
your mind for love tokens that would bring a smile to her lips or a sparkle
to her eyes. He deeply regretted it had come so late in life, but since his heart’s
desire was Eleanor who was so much younger than he, it could have been no
other way. He was grateful it had come at all.”

Lastly, the definition of “heartfire” from Zack in Penelope Williamson’s HEART OF THE WEST, who loved his brother’s wife and knew he couldn’t have her:

"A heartfire, Clementine my darlin', is when you want someone, when
you need her so damn bad, not only in your bed but in your life, that
you're willin' to burn--".

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jennifer Blake’s SWEET PIRACY – Wonderful Story of a Privateer in Louisiana

Set in 1815, this is the story of Caroline Pembroke, governess to a young charge. She is accompanying her from France to the Delecroix plantation in Louisiana when American privateers attack the ship and their leader claims a kiss from Caroline.

Safely arriving with her charge, soon a mysterious marquis moves into the plantation next door. Can he be the privateer who stole a kiss from her?

I can’t say enough good things about this story. It’s so well written at times I had to read a sentence again just to enjoy it. It has enough historical setting to make you realize just what time they are living in. The plot develops slowly as we are introduced to the life of Louisiana Creole gentry and a wonderful cast of characters in the Delecroix family. The ending is sweet and surprising and will make you sigh.

A lovely read by a great author. Well done!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Violetta Rand’s LOVE’S FURY – Powerful Norseman Claims a Saxon Slave

Set in 867, beginning in York, this is the story of Konal the Red, a Norseman drafted by the Danish prince to fight in Northumbria. Once his military contract expires, Konal intends to return to Norway and his family. But his conquests have earned him lands and he wants to see them first The prince has also given him one of the captives, an educated girl named Silvia, to be his slave.

Silvia, the educated daughter of the church undersecretary, vows to avenge her father’s death in the raid that lost her their home, however, she has little choice but to follow Konal as he leads her away from York.

Silvia constantly challenges Konal, all the while being weak to his kisses. Konal is a most unusual Northman, allowing her to do as she wants, believing he can woo her to his bed.

This is a well-written story in the true Viking romance tradition of a powerful Norseman taking an alluring Saxon to be his slave, never intending to keep her in such a position. Can Silvia leave her home forever? The two clash as they find romance.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Rogues Who Make Readers Sigh

Jean Donet, comte de Saintonge

Rogues Who Make Readers Sigh by Regan Walker

 I like my heroes to be alpha males, manly men who know how to take care of themselves (and the heroine, of course). They might appear to be rogues but, in their hearts, they are vulnerable to the woman they would love. 

I don’t care if my heroes dress like dandies. I just don’t want them to be dandies.

The heroes in the Georgian romances, the Donet Trilogy, and in my Regency series, the Agents of the Crown, are all alpha males. Same with those bold knights in my Medieval Warriors series.

Want to meet one?

In Echo in the Wind, book 2 in the Donet Trilogy, you'll meet a striking example. 

Here’s the way the heroine, Lady Joanna West, initially sees Jean Donet, comte de Saintonge, captain of his own ship, and a former pirate and privateer, now a smuggler:

Suddenly, a man appeared at the doorway staring into the parlor with cold detachment. His dark eyes seemed to be searching for someone. His tanned olive skin was a stark contrast to the pasty white complexions of most of the men in the room. He wore his black hair unpowdered and tied back at his nape. His features were bold: a high forehead, black eyebrows, a straight nose and prominent cheekbones.

He cut a striking figure in a dark blue coat edged in cream silk flowers. At his throat and cuffs was a great mound of lace. Beneath the frock coat, an ivory silk waistcoat, embellished in the nattiest of fashion, shimmered.

She knew instantly he could not be English. Such ornate embroidery and so much lace would never be seen in Westminster where the current fashion for men favored a certain austerity. An Englishman attired like this one would be considered a popinjay. But to Joanna, his brooding dark elegance spoke of an uncommon masculine style.

He strode into the parlor, drawing curious glances from the gentlemen and nervous twitters from the ladies. Passing through the crowd, his searching gaze met Joanna’s for only a moment yet, in that moment, excitement coursed through her veins. His obsidian eyes flashed with an intensity she had not encountered before. When his gaze moved on, she felt a keen disappointment.

His dark brows lifted as he headed for someone he appeared to recognize.

“Who is he?” she asked her brother.

Richard turned from his conversation with Addington to follow the subject of her attention. “Oh. If I am not mistaken, Sister, that is the new comte de Saintonge.”

A French comte. Yes, he quite looked the part.

Addington huffed. “You invited a Heathen Frog to your reception for the Prime Minister?”

“Careful, old boy,” chided Richard. “Pitt speaks well of his travels in France and ’tis rumored the comte was once a pirate. You wouldn’t want him to get wind of your views or he might slit your throat some starless night.”

Curious about the criteria for my heroes? Here’s my checklist for writing rogues who make readers sigh:

1. Make him handsome, preferably a bit rugged. A scar wouldn’t go amiss. And make him sexy, the way he walks, his dominating presence as he enters a room, the way he looks around like he owns the place.

2. Give him an edge. Could be bitterness from his past, an attitude from being wronged by a woman, a temper, or a confidence from having proven himself in a test. A touch of the dangerous. A smirk that says the world—and the woman he wants—are his.

3. Make him manly, athletic or at least able to handle himself in a fight. A few weapons on his person, a knife in a boot, a pistol hidden from view, make him seem lethal. Even better if, added to that, he’s respected by other men.

4. Make him arrogant (at first). He knows what he wants and lacks no confidence that he can get it. No beta males need apply.

5. Give him a soft underbelly, love for an animal (his horse?), or perhaps a soft heart for a kid. An orphan is even better. And, of course, eventually he must have a weakness for the heroine (which, all things considered, will bother him the most).

6. Give him an obstacle to overcome, a title to regain, a mystery to solve or a dangerous mission. Make it important.

7. Make him slow to see that he needs a good woman in his life. He must come to the knowledge he can’t live without the heroine, but not too quickly, lest we think he’s a pushover. The bigger the rogue, the harder he’ll fall.

8. Make him reluctant to admit he is wrong (he’s a guy, after all).

9. Tell us how wonderful he is but only through the eyes of others.

10. Make him good at making love. If he’s new at it, make him a natural.
See The Donet Trilogy, the Agents of theCrown and the Medieval Warriors on my website.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Linda Colwell’s CRY OF THE BRETHREN – Great Adventure and a Handsome Fur Trapper Hero

Set in 1843, this is the story of Jessie Trent, saved by trapper Lucas Wakefield and his raiding party from marrying an odious man forced upon her by her father, a member of a cult in Michigan.
With the Brethren of the Aaronites cult in angry pursuit, Lucas escapes with his prize over frozen Lake Michigan, heading to his cabin deep in the woods. He did it for revenge but soon realizes he cannot give Jessie back.

The author introduces us to some wonderful characters that populate this well-told tale. Jessie is a high-spirited girl who was glad to leave the cult but she fears her growing attraction for the half-Indian trapper who treats her with kindness. His friends, too, accept her as part of the family. And then a beautiful Indian woman, the sister of his dead wife, shows up. Oh my!

Colwell is new to me and I enjoyed her work. Lots of emotion and action and great historical detail. Towards The Sunset is the next!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Candace McCarthy’s SEA MISTRESS – Fascinating 19th Century American High Seas Romance with a Sea Captain Hero and an Independent Heroine

Set in 1845 (prologue) and 1850, this is the story of Elizabeth ("Bess") Metcalf, orphaned and raised by her uncle who is a merchant shipping magnate. As a young woman she fell in love with and gave herself to a young sailor, Seth Garret, who she believed abandoned her after their passionate love affair.

Five years later when her uncle dies and leaves her the business, she decides to have her revenge on the man who wronged her, now Captain Seth Garret. In pursuit of him, she stows aboard his ship, a ship that is now one of her company's assets, a Clipper ship on its way to California from the East Coast of America. She intends to show him what it means to be betrayed.

This was my first by McCarthy and I really enjoyed it. She kept me turning pages as the many twists and turns in the story had me wondering what would come next. And I loved the shipboard setting--a Clipper ship from the "age of sail." And she got the terminology right! You'll experience a storm rounding the Cape on the way to San Francisco and many escapades on the way. The characters are well developed and the emotions real.

This is a story of second chances, as a young couple in love rediscovers the deep feelings they once had for each other, feelings they buried long ago. I recommend it.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Karen Robards’ DESIRE IN THE SUN – A Handsome Sea Captain, a Forbidden Love and a Tropical Isle—Formula for a Lasting Love!

February is Pirates and Privateers month in which I feature books with love on the high seas! So let the adventure begin with this story by a great author.

Set in 1792, this tells of Delilah Remy from the British island of Barbados who visits her great aunt in Virginia with the hopes of finding a suitor she actually wants (having previously turned down two dozen proposals and not being very thrilled with her father’s choice). One night she encounters Joss San Pietro, the first man she’s ever been attracted to. He’s tall, dark and terribly handsome and much more mature than the fops who she’s been exposed to and better that the oh-so-dull man her father would see her marry on Barbados where they have a plantation. But the night they meet, Lilah and Joss learn a terrible secret about him that means they can never be together: Joss is not entirely white.

Robards deals well with a sensitive issue at a time when England had no slaves but America did. Joss is an educated businessman, a merchant sea captain with his own ships, but his one drop of African blood rules him out as a suitor and throws him into slavery.

On the voyage south to Barbados, where Joss accompanies Lilah as her slave, they will be shipwrecked on a tropical island for months where none of the rules apply.

Robards tells a great tale with wonderful characters and a deep romance that defies the rules of the day. It kept me turning pages.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Best Viking Romances!

Every now and then I love a good Viking Romance. Not fantasy, not paranormal, just straight up historical romance from the time of the raiding Northmen. The Viking Age was that part of the medieval period from the end of the 8th century to the middle of the 11th century, although there are Norsemen still around beyond that. It was an age of valiant and sometimes ruthless warriors and raiders.

There’s nothing like a Viking raid and a strapping tall warrior to get your blood boiling, right? Well, of course, it must be well done and we want a strong heroine to give the guy some grief. And a little history thrown in doesn’t hurt either. If you like ‘em, here’s a list of those I’ve rated 4 and 5 stars!

Blind Allegiance and Blind Mercy by Violetta Rand
Dawnfire by Lynn Erickson
Dream of Me, Believe in Me and Come Back to Me, trilogy by Josie Litton
Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
Fires of Winter, Hearts Aflame and Surrender My Love, trilogy by Johanna Lindsey
Forbidden Passion by Theresa Scott
Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, trilogy by Heather Graham
Kept by the Viking by Gina Conkle
Lord of Hawkfell Island, Lord of Raven’s Peak and Lord of Falcon Ridge, trilogy by Catherine Coulter
Lord of the Runes by Sabrina Jarema
Loveweaver and The Maiden Seer by Tracy Ann Miller
Maidensong by Diana Groe (aka Mia Marlowe)
Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle
Northward the Heart by Maureen Kurr
Odin’s Shadow, A Flame Put Out and Oath Breaker, 3-part story by Erin Riley
Raeliksen, Mac Liam and The Temperate Warrior by Renee Vincent (re-edited and re-released as Sunset Fire, Emerald Glory and Souls Reborn)
Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri
Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
Storm Maiden by Mary Gillgannon
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
The Bewitched Viking by Sandra Hill
The Enchantment (first published as My Warrior’s Heart) by Betina Krahn
The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger
The Valiant Heart, The Defiant Heart and The Captive Heart by Kathleen Kirkwood (aka Anita Gordon)
The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford
The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight
The Viking Warrior’s Bride by Harper St. George
To Find a Viking Treasure by Gina Conkle
Twin Passions by Miriam Minger
Viking Captive by Emma Merritt
Viking Gold by Nadine Crenshaw
Viking Passion by Flora Speer
Viking Rose by Ashland Price
Viking Sword: The Stranded One by Mairi Norris
And for a story that begins with a Viking attack, consider my own Rebel Warrior, book 3 in the Medieval Warriors series.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Guest Author Gina Conkle shares from her research on Vikings!

My guest today is Gina Conkle, author of Viking and Georgian romances, some of which have been featured on Historical Romance Review. Gina grew up in southern California and, despite all that sunshine, she loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons and where she occasionally gardens and cooks.

She has graciously agreed to share a bit about the Vikings from her research. Her latest Viking story is Kept By a Viking, which I have reviewed.

Be sure and leave a comment with your email as Gina is giving away a ebook copy of Kept by a Viking!

What Does A Hero Have To Do To Get Ahead? 
By Gina Conkle

Paris was long a favorite raiding spot for Vikings and other marauders. Rouen, the many abbeys, and neighboring towns were prime targets. The famed Siege of Paris (845-846 AD) earned the north men 7000 livres of silver and gold.

The Siege of Paris
Greedy Vikings came back for more, executing another Siege of Paris in 885-886 AD. This time they left with lesser reward: 700 livres of silver. That didn’t stop them from carrying on their mayhem all the way to Burgundy.

And Vikings kept coming, waves of them, harrying the Franks up and down the Seine River.
But it took an unsuccessful Viking warrior to change history.

Viking leader Rollo the Walker camped out along an estuary of the Seine River for 10 years and became the first leader of what we call Normandy. 

Normandy Countryside
Rollo earned the name “Walker” because he was supposedly so big, no horse could carry him. Hence, he had to walk everywhere. He attacked Paris and lost. He regrouped and attacked Chartres and lost. The Franks were getting better at fighting the Vikings. Yet, Rollo and his Vikings were determined to attack again, and again, and again.

Then Charles the Simple, King of the Franks, was struck with an idea: Why not ask the unrelenting raiders to be his neighbors? Then, the Vikings will fight for them.

King Charles wanted Rollo and his men to create a defensive buffer between Paris and other sea invaders…and what a beautiful buffer the king offered! Normandy.

More than a few Parisian leaders thought the king was bonkers. Northmen for neighbors? Many thought King Charles was putting the fox in charge of protecting the chicken coop. Tempting Parisian wealth would be that much closer to the Viking and his blood-thirsty men.

Rollo was no fool. He took the offer.

Maybe land is worth more than silver and gold?

To seal the deal, Charles offered his daughter in marriage to the Viking chieftain, requested he convert to Christianity, and by the way, be baptized and become known as Robert. Rollo agreed.

Technically speaking, the Vikings were subject to the Franks (but try telling that to a tough Viking!). For decades, the Franks and Vikings lived as uneasy neighbors. Rollo and his son, Will Longsword were called chieftain and jarl by their own people (almost all Vikings). Rollo and his son Will, were called “Count” by Christians.

During a celebratory event, one of the wary bishops decreed Rollo should kiss the king’s foot. Meant as a sign of submission, this was Frankish payback—Viking humiliation.
No kiss, no land.

Rollo was a crafty one, ever adaptable in politics. He conferred with his men in the back of the hall and offered up one of his warriors to kiss the kingly foot.

The warrior approached King Charles seated on his throne, but he wouldn’t bend. The king realized he'd have to meet the proud Norseman part way, so he lifted his foot.  The Viking grabbed the foot, raised it high to his mouth, and knocked Charles off his rear.

The hall erupted with laughter. The Franks quit messing with the Vikings, and Rollo and his followers took over a vast domain in AD 911.

Under Rollo's rule, the region prospered.

Vikings intermarried. They took on the language of the region (mixed with their own). And, Rollo made Rouen his city center. His strong presence turned the oft-attacked area into a peaceful place.

From raiders to businessmen and landowners, Vikings settled in, adapting to their new home. The Norse leader ran a prosperous kingdom.

Apparently, a fox can run a chicken coop.

My Viking romance series, The Forgotten Sons, is based on a band of warriors fighting for fame and finding love as they establish Viking Normandy.

Rurik is loyal only to his men, the Forgotten Sons, until an offer of land from Normandy’s chieftain intrigues the low born warrior. But, the sultry Parisian thrall he finds in his bed intrigues him more…

Safira needs Rurik’s help to secure safe passage home. Full of secrets, she’s a challenge—one he’s determined to conquer, but their arrival in foreign lands marks a new chapter. An old enemy surfaces and impossible decisions must be made. With alliances fraying, past promises may not be enough to save Rurik from betraying those he’s sworn loyalty to—including Safira, the woman who stole his heart.

True love will test the brotherhood

See the book on Amazon, B&N and Kobo. And visit Gina's Website and connect with her on Facebook!