Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Penelope Williamson’s HEART OF THE WEST - Magnificent Montana Love Story!

This historical romance will tear at your heart, I promise. It covers twelve years (1879-1891) in the lives of Americans trying to carve out a life in Montana frontier. She weaves a a masterful tale with incredibly accurate historic detail and dialog that brings to life the people who made the West: Easterners, cowboys, Indians, Chinese, Irish, miners, railroad workers, merchants, ranchers and those who preyed upon them.

There are lots of relationship combinations in this romance: Two men loving the same woman; two women loving the same man; one man loving a woman who should never have married the man she did; a good-hearted whore who becomes a lady's true friend and the lover of the man her friend loves, different races coming together and children birthed and loved only to die of accident, disease and more. Through the lives of these people, Williamson so beautifully portrays, you will experience the life of the Americans who won the west and who made this country great. And you will experience love that endures through the years though denied.

Williamson takes her time developing the characters. You will feel as if you know them; you will experience their dreams, their tragedies, their disappointments, their happiness and their loves. And, as with the other great romances by this author, you will feel the emotion, whether deep in the pits of despair or soaring with love's sweet reward.

And, it is truly a great love story.

The main story is that of Clementine Kennicutt, the highborn daughter of a rigid, demanding and, at times, abusive minister in Boston. She dreams of freedom and of cowboys. When one stumbles into her life, though she doesn’t really know him, she is willing to elope with him to his ranch in Montana.

Gus McQueen was raised in the south and in Boston but then as a young man he went looking for his younger brother, Zach Rafferty, who he had lost when they were separated as children. He finds him and they stake a ranch in Montana, which it seems is always just barely making it. When Gus, a man of dreams, meets Clementine in Boston on a trip home to see his dying mother, he knows he can't live without her. So Gus, 25, and Clementine, 18, wed knowing next to nothing about each other.

Gus brings Clementine her home to Montana and to a hard life she is not prepared for. Zach, the darker younger brother with a mysterious past (even at 23), realizes soon after Clementine arrives that he covets his brother's wife. And, though faithful to her husband, Zach becomes the passion of Clementine’s life--a passion denied.

You can see the potential for great angst here, can't you? Here a sample of the words Zach speaks to her—one of my all time favorite quotes:

"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—"

Yeah, well, a whole lot of burnin' goes on in this story. It’s a keeper!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Jan Cox Speas’ BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH – A Highland Classic and an Absorbing Love Story from 17th Century Scotland!


A bestseller when it was first published in 1954, it has been off the market for some time. The edition I read was published in 1978, available used at the present time. It’s worth obtaining a copy, trust me. If I could give this novel more than 5 stars, I would. It’s a keeper and so well written it would be a good model for authors today. Even though there are no love scenes per se, there is a lot of sexual tension and much romance to satisfy the historical romance lover. The writing is simply beautiful.

Set in the Scottish Highlands in 1614, it tells the story of Elspeth Lamond, a beautiful young woman, the product of a handfast 20 years earlier between her Campbell mother and Lamond father, both Scots. Raised in England, she is also a favorite at Queen Anne’s court. Her uncle, the powerful Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, has plans to marry her off to a rich, titled man. But to fulfill a promise to her dying mother, she leaves London for the western coast of Scotland to Inverary, the home of the Campbell’s, her mother’s clan. On the way, she is abducted by the MacHughs and held at Rathmor castle where she was born, the lair of her father Robert Lamond and his ally, Sir Alexander MacHugh, Chief of Clan MacHugh—the feared “Black MacHugh.”

Alex is attracted to the strong-willed Elspeth—a perfect match for him—from the very beginning. He wants her as “his lass,” but does not speak of his love nor offer her marriage. Elspeth is exasperated by the arrogant Scots chieftain who kisses her whenever he likes, but discovers she likes the Scots and the wilds of the Highlands—and she likes the MacHugh. As her father tells her of the qualities than make Alex stand out as a leader, respected by all, he says, “…Scotland is a quarrelsome place at times, my dear Elspeth, and a man must look sharp to keep his head intact upon his shoulders.”

Schemes and treacheries abound in this well-told tale, not only from Elspeth’s uncle but from Alex’s mistress, the beautiful Kate who would force him to wed her by getting with child. Alex takes a stand with the MacDonalds in their battle for independence in the Isles against the Campbells fighting as King James’s catspaw. The characters are compelling, the action suspenseful and the anxiety as to whether Elspeth will end up with the MacHugh will have you turning pages late into the night.

I liked Alex and Elspeth so much they’re on my Favorite Heroes & Heroines list.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Barbara Monajem’s THE CHRISTMAS KNOT – A Christmas Novella to Treasure

This is a cleverly told Regency involving a second chance at love and a family ghost! Edwina White, a penniless widow, takes a position as governess in a remote village in the north of England only to discover that her new employer, Sir Richard Ballister, is the man she thought betrayed her ten years ago.

Sir Richard inherited an estate with a ghost and a curse. He needs a governess for his motherless children but all those he has hired leave him because of the ghost. Finally, he has hired a woman who will stay, but she’s the woman who left him for a richer man.

A well-told tale with Christmas at its heart. It’s a novella but with a story that is rich enough to feel complete. Richard and Edwina are both stubborn and resist the pull toward each other. But, in the end, love will win out.

The two children are charming and the ghost adds a lot. A wonderful Christmas read.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Virginia Heath’s THE DISCERNING GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE – Very Clever Regency Well Told

Bennett Montague, Duke of Aveley, is seeking the perfect bride. He’s even written a guide with his father’s advice as to how to select one. He's narrowed his search to five women called “the Potentials”, all demure and blonde. But then he meets Amelia Mansfield, his aunt's companion, who is the daughter of a viscount who annulled his marriage to Amelia’s mother because she could not bear him a son. Bennett does not know Amelia is of the nobility but thinks her a mere commoner. Hence, when he finds himself attracted to her, he dismisses the possibility of her being one of “the Potentials”.

Amelia survived her father’s rejection and her mother’s death to become an outspoken bluestocking concerned with the plight of the poor. She is amused and angered by Aveley’s method of selecting a wife. She sees the duke as arrogant and harsh but the man beneath the veneer as very attractive.

The story of Bennett’s search for a bride was cleverly told through the clips from his book, which was his father’s advice that he comes to see as rigid and not at all like the man the duke wants to be. Both he and Amelia are committed to reform and once they realize how alike they are, well, it’s got to be love! A clever Regency.

Monday, December 2, 2019

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

It’s that time of year when I share my favorite heroes and heroines and I catch up with my reading in all genres. One of the ones I read this year that I liked very much was Arabella.

Heyer brings great detail to her stories and I love that. 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.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Best Victorian Romances!


This is a fairly new list, hence it is shorter than my others. It features romances set in the Victorian era, generally from 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) to 1901 (the year of her death). The common perception of the period is that the Victorians were “prudish, hypocritical, stuffy and narrow-minded”.  But these perceptions are not always accurate, particularly when the British characters were traveling and learning much about other cultures, as you will see in these romances. All of those listed here have been rated 4 or 5 stars by me:

A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
Beauty and the Spymaster by Moriah Densley (novella)
Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran
Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt
From Fields of Gold by Alexandra Ripley
Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran
Gentle From the Night by Meagan McKinney
Gypsy Jewel by Patricia McAllister
Harcourt’s Mountain by Elaine Dodge
If You Dare, If You Desire and If You Deceive, MacCarrick Brothers trilogy by Kresley Cole
Lady Sophia’s Lover and Worth Any Price, the Bow Street Runners by Lisa Kleypas
Lord Edward’s Mysterious Treasure by Lillian Marek
Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt
Lord of Wicked Intentions by Lorraine Heath
Mine Till Midnight, Seduce Me at Sunrise, Tempt Me at Twilight, Married by Morning and Love in the Afternoon, Hathaway Series, by Lisa Kleypas
Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
Proof of Virtue by Leila Snow
Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
September Moon by Candice Proctor
Silk and Shadows, Silk and Secrets and Veils of Silk, the Silk Trilogy by Mary Jo Putney
Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden
Song for Sophia and The King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley
Surrender the Night by Christine Monson
The Book of the Seven Delights and The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
The Last Bachelor by Betina Krahn
The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt
The Road to Paradise Island by Victoria Holt
The Scarlet Thread by Beck Lee Weyrich
The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt
The Silk Vendetta by Victoria Holt
The Time of the Hunter’s Moon by Victoria Holt
This Fiery Splendor by Christine Monson
To Wed The Widow by Megan Bryce
When We Touch by Heather Graham
Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lorraine Heath’s LORD OF WICKED INTENTIONS – A Victorian Story of Redemption and Second Chances

Set in the mid-1800s, this is the third in the Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy. Had I known that, I might have started with book 1. By the time we get to Rafe’s story, it is clear that much has taken place in the lives of the three brothers who were imprisoned by an uncle. But they escaped awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright.

Lord Rafe Easton was the one who escaped to survive on his own in the streets of St. Giles. Now the owner of a successful gambling hall, he is wealthy and has shunned his two brothers who left him in a workhouse as a child. He is bitter and determined to need or love no one…until Eve comes into his life.

After her father's death, Miss Evelyn Chambers, an earl's illegitimate daughter, thinks her half brother intends to find her a husband as he promised her father he would see to her needs. However, he has in mind something quite different and offers her to the highest bidder among the lords who want a new mistress. And Rafe Easton, invited to the bidding because Evelyn’s brother owes him much, decides to have her.

When Evelyn is taken to Rafe Easton’s home, she assumes it’s to be his housekeeper. She is shocked to learn he expects her to be his mistress.

A great story of redemption and the power of love to change a heart. I enjoyed this story and will read more of the trilogy. Lorraine Heath’s stories are always emotion-packed and powerful. A wonderful Victorian romance.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Heather Graham’s WHEN WE TOUCH – Jack the Ripper, Queen Victoria and romance…Oh my!

Set in Victorian England after the death of Prince Alpert, this is the story of Maggie, Lady Graham, an independent woman. Though she had her pick of the men in the ton, she fell in love with a police officer and married him. After two years of wedded bliss, he was killed in action. Now the still young and beautiful Maggie lives with her brother Justin and her friend the author Mireau. Maggie’s passions are helping the poor women of the East End, mostly prostitutes, and exposing the spiritualists who would fleece the poor in spirit. But her brother's gambling debts force her to accept her uncle's plan for her to wed the old but very illustrious Lord Charles Langdon, friend of the Queen, who has coveted her since her first Season.

Prior to the wedding, murders have begun in London that are causing panic everywhere. No woman is safe and certainly not one like Maggie who goes to the unsafe parts of the town for her work among the poor. Meanwhile, she and Lord Charles’ nephew, Jamie Langdon, have found they cannot resist each other. Though she is falling in love with Jamie, to save her brother and the family, she intends to wed the old but kind Lord Langdon and to make him a faithful wife. Before they are wed, she and Jamie know a night of passion. All of the characters become absorbed into the melee that is Jack the Ripper.

The story is well told though at times I did find myself skipping over some of the historical parts that seemed to take too much away from the romance between Jamie and Maggie. Shannon Drake (the early pen name for Heather Graham and the original author of the book) does a good job of capturing a turbulent time in London's history and giving us an insight into what it must have been like. Her work is well researched, well written and her romance compelling. This is the 7th in her “Graham saga” though less related that the earlier ones. Still, it’s Graham and I love her stories!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Laura Landon’s INTIMATE DECEPTION – Well-told Victorian Romance

Set in England in 1853, this is the story of Lady Grace Warren is the oldest of 7 daughters. Grace promised her mother when she died that she would see all of her younger sisters wed to men they loved. All are now married save her younger sister. To make sure their father does not give Anne to the pervert, Lord Fentington, Grace offers to marry him herself. But she is only buying time. Lord Fentington would never marry her if she was no longer a virgin and Grace sets out to make sure she is not with a visit to her best friend who runs an exclusive brothel.

After losing two wives in childbirth, Vincent Germaine, Duke of Raeburn vows he will never marry again. Now he only finds his pleasure with London’s courtesans. He never knew the bewitching young woman whose virtue he claimed is the daughter of an earl. Worried he may have planted a babe in yet another poor woman, he decides to find her. And he does.

A well-told tale with a noble hero and a very capable heroine. It’s a story of family love and treachery and second, even third chances. I recommend it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Best Historical Romance Trilogies: Superb Talent in Threes!


It takes talent to write a great historical romance novel, but to write three in a row and make them all worthy reads is a challenge. Of course, I recognize this omits some wonderful single titles and some great multibook series, but if you like to read trilogies, as I do, here’s my list of the ones I recommend:

1.       Laurie McBain’s Dominick trilogy: MOONSTRUCK MADNESS, CHANCE THE WINDS OF FORTUNE and DARK BEFORE THE RISING SUN

2.       Virginia Henley’s Medieval Plantagenet trilogy: THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER, THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL and THE MARRIAGE PRIZE

3.       Brenda Joyce’s THE CONQUEROR, PROMISE OF THE ROSE and THE PRIZE

4.       Judith McNaught’s Westmoreland trilogy: A KINGDOM OF DREAMS, WHITNEY MY LOVE and UNTIL YOU

5.       Lisa Kelypas’ Bow Street Runners trilogy: SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, LADY SOPHIA’S LOVER and WORTH ANY PRICE

6.       Johanna Lindsey’s Wyoming trilogy: BRAVE THE WILD WIND, SAVAGE THUNDER, and ANGEL

7.       Pamela Clare’s Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy: SWEET RELEASE, CARNAL GIFT and RIDE THE FIRE

8.       Pamela Clare’s MacKinnon’s Rangers: SURRENDER, UNTAMED and DEFIANT

9.       Kaki Warner’s Runaway Brides trilogy:  HEARTBREAK CREEK, COLORADO DAWN and BRIDE of the HIGH COUNTRY

10.    Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose trilogy: PIECES OF SKY, OPEN COUNTRY and CHASING THE SUN

11.    Kaki Warner’s Heroes of Heartbreak Creek: BEHIND HIS BLUE EYES, WHERE THE HORSES RUN and HOME BY MORNING

12.    Heather Graham’s North American Woman trilogy: SWEET SAVAGE EDEN, A PIRATE'S PLEASURE and LOVE NOT A REBEL

13.    Heather Graham’s Civil War trilogy: ONE WORE BLUE, AND ONE WORE GRAY and AND ONE RODE WEST.

14.    Heather Graham’s Viking trilogy: GOLDEN SURRENDER, THE VIKING’S WOMAN and THE LORD OF THE WOLVES

15.    Marsha Canham’s Pirate Wolf trilogy: ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA, IRON ROSE and THE FOLLOWING SEA

16.    Marsha Canham’s Scottish trilogy: THE PRIDE OF LIONS, BLOOD OF ROSES AND MIDNIGHT HONOR

17.    Marsha Canham’s Robin Hood trilogy: THROUGH A DARK MIST, IN THE SHADOW OF MIDNIGHT and THE LAST ARROW

18.    Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers trilogy: IF YOU DARE, IF YOU DESIRE and IF YOU DECEIVE

19.    Iris Johansen’s Wind Dancer trilogy: THE WIND DANCER, STORM WINDS and REAP THE WIND

20.    Catherine Coulter’s Viking trilogy: LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND, LORD OF RAVEN’S PEAK and LORD OF FALCON RIDGE

21.    Shirl Henke’s Cheyenne trilogy: CAPTURE THE SUN, THE ENDLESS SKY, and SUNDANCER

22.    Shirl Henke’s Santa Fe trilogy: NIGHT WIND’S WOMAN, WHITE APACHE’S WOMAN and DEEP AS THE RIVERS

23.    Elizabeth Lowell’s Medieval trilogy: UNTAMED, FORBIDDEN and ENCHANTED

24.    Jennifer Blake’s Three Graces trilogy: BY HIS MAJESTY’S GRACE, BY GRACE POSSESSED and SEDUCED BY GRACE

25.    Lisa Jackson’s Medieval Welsh trilogy: ENCHANTRESS, KISS OF THE MOON and OUTLAW

26.    Lisa Jackson’s Medieval Welsh trilogy: IMPOSTRESS, TEMPTRESS and SORCERESS

27.    Mary Jo Putney’s Silk Trilogy: SILK AND SHADOWS, SILK AND SECRETS and VEILS OF SILK

28.    Susan King’s Medieval Maiden trilogy: THE SWAN MAIDEN, THE STONE MAIDEN and the SWORD MAIDEN

29.    Mary Wine’s Highlander trilogy: TO CONQUER A HIGHLANDER, HIGHLAND HELLCAT and HIGHLAND HEAT

30.    Connie Brockway’s Scottish trilogy: THE PASSIONATE ONE, THE RECKLESS ONE and THE RAVISHING ONE

31.    Laura Parker’s Rose trilogy: ROSE OF THE MISTS, A ROSE IN SPLENDOR, and THE SECRET ROSE

32.    Emma Jensen’s Regency Spy trilogy: ENTWINED, FALLEN and MOONLIT

33.    Renee Vincent’s Emerald Isle trilogy: RALIKSEN, MAC LIAM and THE FALL OF RAIN

34.    Tina St. John’s Warrior trilogy: WHITE LIONS LADY, BLACK LION’S BRIDE and LADY OF VALOR.

35.    Amy J. Fetzer’s Irish trilogy: THE IRISH PRINCESS, THE IRISH ENCHANTRESS and THE IRISH KNIGHT

36.    Laurel McKee’s Daughters of Erin trilogy: COUNTESS OF SCANDAL, DUCHESS OF SIN and LADY OF SEDUCTION

37.    Jill Marie Landis’ Irish Angel trilogy: HEART OF STONE, HEART OF LIES and HEARTOF GLASS

38.    Christine Dorsey’s trilogy: THE RENEGADE (first published as THE RENEGADE AND THE ROSE), THE REBEL and THE ROGUE

39.    Judith E. French’s Fortune trilogy: FORTUNE'S MISTRESS, FORTUNE'S FLAME and FORTUNE'S BRIDE

40.    Aleen Malcolm’s Cameron trilogy: THE TAMING, RIDE OUT THE STORM and THE DAUGHTERS OF CAMERON

41.    Sandra Worth’s The Rose of York trilogy (Richard III’s life and love): LOVE AND WAR, THE CROWN OF DESTINY and FALL FROM GRACE

42.    Tamara Leigh’s The Feud trilogy: BARON OF GODSMERE, BARON OF EMBERLY and BARON OF BLACKWOOD.

I hope you will consider my own award-winning Donet Trilogy: TO TAME THE WIND, ECHO IN THE WIND and A FIERCE WIND… Georgian romances featuring handsome ship captains and wonderful love stories that follow closely the historical events unfolding in England and France in the late 18th century. See them on my website HERE

Monday, November 18, 2019

Megan Bryce’s TO CATCH A SPINSTER – Delightful Novella! Contented Spinster Looking for Experience in Love

Olivia Blakesley, a spinster who is content with her love of astronomy and books, nevertheless wants to experience physical love. So, she sets out to find a man who can provide it. He must be an unattached gentleman and not a rake. Nathaniel Jenkins is just perfect.

Nathaniel is supposed to choose a bride from the balls and soirees. However, he is bored by the debutantes’ chatter. When Miss Blakesley appears to make him a most improper offer, he is shocked and intrigued. After some consideration, he agrees. After all, she does not chatter.

As you might imagine, there are some explicit, albeit well written and tasteful, love scenes in this story. Nathaniel comes to see Miss Blakesley as his perfect match but she is disdainful of her ever being a proper wife and refuses his proposal.

Another well-written early Victorian by Bryce and with enough back and forth to hole your interest, I recommend it.