Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Gina Conkle’s NORSE JEWEL –Intriguing Viking Story

Set in 1022, the story begins in the “land of the Franks” (today’s France, since she lived near Paris). It tells of Helena from the village of Aubergon who was taken in a raid by the Danes and is now to be sold as a slave. Norse chieftain Hakan the Tall of Svea (the word means Swede so perhaps he’s from Sweden), is tired of war and intends to become a farmer. He wants to buy a slave to teach him Frankish and help him in his wine trade.

 

I found the beginning of the story intriguing as Helena waits on the slave block while she and another woman are looked over by prospective purchasers. Though he wanted a docile older woman, Hakan buys Helena and they sail back to Svea. Once there, though she is a thrall, he elevates her to care for his house and lands, giving her much freedom and status. But the only thing she wants is to go home. Though Haken is attracted to Helena, he has no intent to marry again. His first wife divorced him and is a selfish woman who keeps his son, though by their law the boy should live with his father. Meanwhile, King Olof requires Haken’s sword in akendealing with some bad guys who are in league with the Danes. And Haken makes a deal with Helena that if she can get back his son, he will return her to her home.

 

This is the author’s debut novel. Her style is a bit different and took a bit of getting used to but once I got past that, I thought it an absorbing story. She has created a believable Viking world, though one has to wonder if any thrall was ever treated like Helena. I thought Conkle’s treatment of emotions and the growing feelings between Haken and Helena very well done. However, there is only one abbreviated love scene which some may find surprising at this for a Viking story. Let’s just say the Viking hero here is a gentleman.

 

It has the feel of part one of the story as much is left unresolved when you get to the last page. Haken’s land and security—even his king—are threatened by betrayal and the avarice of others yet we don't get to find out what happens. I could only assume that 199 pages were not enough to finish the story and perhaps there will be a next installment. And since his wine trade did not feature in this book, it may be in the next.


 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Julia Knight’s THE VIKING’S SACRIFICE – An Unusual Love Story of a Viking and a Saxon

This is an unusual Viking tale set in Northeast England in 836 (the beginning) and Norway in 844. This is the story of Einar, who as a young man goes raiding with his brothers and sets upon a village in which a girl named Wilda lives. Her mother is slain before her eyes by one of Einar’s brothers, Bausi, who then kills Einar’s older brother and tries to kill Einar. But Wilda saves him and then he saves her, telling her to “renn, renn” (run, run). Years later, they meet again when Wilda is captured in another raid and brought back to Norway.

 

Bausi, having been thwarted in his plans to kill both of his brothers, threatened Einar with a curse: he will kill their younger siblings if Einar speaks of what happened. To make matters worse, Bausi spreads a lie of Einar’s cowardice, which the whole village believes.

 

The story was well research and has an authentic feel. Knight’s writing is excellent and she made good use of the language differences in giving us a picture of what life might be like for the thralls taken captive by the Vikings. Einar’s feelings for Wilda were sweet and tender.

 

There’s a fair bit of introspection, which at times slowed an otherwise absorbing story. The story was a bit depressing with Einar continuously the recipient of his people’s scorn and living on the edge of society. But finally, he stood up and fought. Still, it was a well-told Viking tale about two young people who eventually cross their cultures to find love.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Penelope Neri’s SEA JEWEL – Enemies Can be Lovers, A Classic Viking Saga and a Superbly Told Story

Set in the late 9th century in Jutland (Denmark) and England, this is the story of Freya, daughter of Thorfast, Lord of Danehof, a powerful jarl, and Alaric, son of the high chieftain Aeldred, descendant of the kings of Kent in Britain, whose father and brothers were brutally murdered by Thorfast in a Viking raid.

 

When her father rejects her because she is not the son he wanted, Freya vows to become a warrior who will lead her father’s men a-Viking. Her guardian, Sven, the skald who sees visions tells her that she will be taken in a raid by a great bear. And so she is. Alaric, called the Great Bear, now leads his people. He captures Freya and vows to make her his thrall (slave) and take his vengeance. Oh, yes, he does that. But in the process, Alaric discovers the Danish maiden he has taken has captured his heart. What is he to do when he is betrothed to another, one worthy of a Saxon thane?

 

Neri writes very well and weaves a complex story that kept me turning pages. This is a classic sage and covers several years in Freya’s life, first a jarl’s daughter and a warrior, then a slave who wins respect, then freed to wed a man she counted as friend and then to find her true home and her greatest love. There are wonderful secondary characters, richly drawn: Robin the skald, entertainer and spy; Sven who became like a father to Freya; and Ilse who Freya rescued, both to love the same man. And so many others.

 

Rich in historical detail based on much research into the era, Neri brings alive the 9th century and the villages of Denmark, Wessex and Danelaw in Britain. And it is so well done—simply superb storytelling.

 

Highly recommended.


Monday, January 18, 2021

Marti Talbott’s THE VIKING – A Viking in Scotland and a Well-Told Tale

 

This is the first story is a series of Viking tales. This one involves a young lad who is half Scot and whose father wanted to return to Scotland’s shores. So, when Stefan is not yet 15, he sailed on a longship with his father to Scotland on his first Viking raid. In the ensuing battle, his father is killed and the men abandon Stefan when they realize they are outnumbered by the Scots.

 

Stefan is saved by Kannak, a girl of 13, who lives alone with her mother. They needed the help of a man since Kannak’s father deserted them. Kannak knows Stefan is a Viking but she is willing to hide him if he will help her and her mother.


Contriving a story for her clan that Stefan is from the north where they grow larger, he soon becomes a part of the family, helping the two women by tilling the fields and hunting and fishing. Stefan misses his father but is happy to have a family.

 

During the next few years, much happens in the clan of which Stefan is now a part. The tale takes some unexpected turns and we learn some secrets about Kannak and Stefan that even they did not know. Love begins to grow between them, too, but it is threatened when Stefan becomes the subject of the villainy of the jealous clan chief’s wife.

 

Talbott’s writing is very readable and her storytelling enjoyable. Soon you will become wrapped up in the lives of these people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Theresa Scott’s FORBIDDEN PASSION – Worthy Viking Tale with an Irish Hero

Set in 10th century in Ireland and Greenland, this is the story of Yngveld Sveinsdatter whose father once contracted her to wed Ivar Wolfson of Dubh Linn. Since Yngveld lives in Greenland, Ivar sends his trusted Irish bodyguard, Thomas Lachlann, bastard son of Viking Lord Harald, to retrieve her. Meanwhile, Yngveld, whose father is dead, has no idea of the prior contract. Her biggest worry is avoiding marriage to a ruthless man in Greenland who wants her and her lands.

 

Thomas sails for Greenland only to have his ship seized by the same evil man who is after Yngveld. When she seeks a ship and a crew to escape to Norway where she has relatives, she purchases a ship and slaves to sail it, which turn out to be Thomas’s ship and he and his men. Ah, but Thomas has no intention of remaining a slave…

 

The story takes off and held my attention as Scott brought me into the Viking world, sailing on a Viking ship to Greenland. All that was to the good. And the hero and heroine are a worthy pair. I really liked Thomas. The middle of the book meandered a bit, but the ending was exciting. Viking fans will love it.


 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sandra Hill’s THE BEWITCHED VIKING – Unusual, Clever, Whimsical Viking Tale

While this one of Hill’s many Viking stories is not fantasy, it is fanciful. And witty, at times funny and, while not a serious historical romance and sometimes modern sounding, it is also very entertaining.

 

Set in 952 AD, this is the story of Tykir Thorksson, a wealthy Viking trader in amber, who is sent by the King of Birka (present day Sweden) to find a redheaded witch who, the king is certain, has cursed his male part. The target of Tykir’s quest, Lady Alinor of Yorkshire has been thrice widowed and is done with men. She prefers to be left alone with her sheep. But her two ridiculous brothers want to betroth her once again, this time to a fat man Tykir dubs the Lord of Lard.

 

Alinor denies she is a witch and resists going with Tykir, but he gives her no choice and so she and her dog and some of her sheep follow Tykir into Northumbria and eventurally to see the king. In a clever story, Tykir comes to believe she is a witch when things happen he cannot explain.

 

It took me a while to get used to Hill’s style as she begins each scene with a line that forecasts what you’ll see (I thought it was someone’s thinking but it’s the narrator), but eventually I rather liked that feature. She does manage to drop in some historically interesting tidbits so that I could see she knew her subject well and had done much research for her story. The place names are all there, too. The characters are wonderfully drawn and some quite funny. Bolthor the Skald comes to mind with his silly verses.

 

If you like witty, off beat historical romances with extended love scenes, this is a good one. I suppose all of Hill’s may be similar. I would read another of hers, particularly Rurik’s story (The Blue Viking).

 

The list of her Viking romances that Hill says are not fantasy:

 

The Tarnished Lady

The Bewitched Viking

The Blue Viking

A Tale of Two Vikings

Viking in Love

The Viking Takes a Knight

The Norse King's Daughter


 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Johanna Lindsey’s HEARTS AFLAME – Superb Viking-Saxon Romance—a Keeper!

Hearts Aflame is the second in the Haardrad Viking family trilogy, but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone. It is quite wonderful--an engaging story and well-told. In a bit of a twist, it’s a Saxon lord capturing a Viking maiden.

 

Set in the late 9th century when Vikings sailed south to England, Scotland and Ireland to raid, it tells the story of Kristen Haardrad, the independent, strong-willed and much loved daughter of a wealthy Viking merchant (whose story is told in book #1). Having spurned her many suitors because she can find no spark of love with any of them, Kristen stows away on her brother's ship believing he is headed to the southern coastal towns for trade where she hopes to find a husband. But her brother is not sailing to trade, but rather to raid. And he is not pleased when he discovers his sister is aboard his ship. Still, he proceeds with his plans.

 

All goes awry when Kristen is captured and made the slave of the Saxon lord, Royce of Wyndhurst, a favored warrior of King Alfred.

 

Royce is a tough but fair leader who is betrothed to a manipulating female he doesn't really want. He fights his attraction to his beautiful Viking slave, but Kristen, who has finally met a man who stirs her passion, has decided he is her "heartmate" and she will have no other. Royce wants her in his bed, but Kristen is proud and determined to win his heart.

 

Lindsey keeps you intrigued with rich characters, snappy (and sometimes funny) dialog, great action scenes and wonderfully believable tension between Kristen and Royce. I loved this story. It's definitely a keeper!

 

The Haardrad Viking trilogy:

 

Fires of Winter

Hearts Aflame

Surrender My Love

Monday, January 4, 2021

Kathleen Kirkwood’s (aka Anita Gordon) THE DEFIANT HEART – Well-researched and Well-written Viking tale

Viking month continues with one of Kathleen Kirkwood’s absorbing tales. This second story is set in 915AD and begins as a fleet of Danish drakken dragon ships attacks Eire (Ireland) to rape and pillage. Ailinn, a poor relation of the princess Rhiannon, was seized with the other young women attending Rhiannon’s wedding. But Ailinn was not raped with the others, which infuriates her cousin, Rhiannon, who assumes it’s because Ailinn wore the bridal veil in a last minute switch of attire.

 

Once the Danes arrive in their homeport of Hedeby, Lyting Atlison encounters them and is drawn to Ailinn’s beauty. Lyting, born a Dane, lives in Francia where his uncle is Duke Rollo. Apparently (possibly in book 1) Lyting was spared some fate that caused him to want to become a monk, but his brother, Rurik, thinks Lyting should take a wife and settle down.

 

Lyting first tries to buy Ailinn, not to have her but to spare her a horrible fate. When he discovers she is destined for a harem in Byzantium, he joins the fleet that will carry her there. And then the adventure begins, and oh, is it ever an adventure: from Danmark (Denmark) to Constantinople, through dangerous river rapids and deadly river pirates.

 

I liked Kirkwood/Gordon’s well-researched, detailed writing—obviously based on impressive research. I could “see” the places and people they described, hear the birds and feel the movement of the ships. I could taste the heroine’s fear.

 

The author clearly made an effort to make this an authentic Viking tale set in the history of the time, hence women taken as slaves were mistreated and raped. No surprise there. Gordon does it tastefully. The author also made an effort to date the speech to the period, which I appreciated. (I prefer historicals that don’t read like contemporaries.)

 

There were a lot of characters to keep track of but the author did a good job of providing descriptions. And there were many place names mentioned (a map would have been nice). All the same, the story drew me and kept me reading. Trust me, some of the scenes will have you on the edge of your seat!

 

Brienne and Rurik, hero and heroine in book 1, are characters in this story and there are lots of references to their story and the characters from that story. I also had the feeling I missed some of Lyting’s story that took place in book 1. It helps to begin at the beginning. So, read them in order.

 

Lyting was a “to die for” hero and Ailinn proved to be the most honorable of the women, looking after her frail cousin, Diera. I recommend this story and will definitely read more of the trilogy, perhaps beginning with book 1.

 

Heart trilogy:

 

The Valiant Heart

The Defiant Heart

The Captive Heart


 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Norse longships and West Highland Galleys by Regan Walker

 

January is Viking month on Historical Romance Review so travel back in time for some wonderful stories set in the times when the Norse and Danes plied the seas and the Gaels who would one day become a part of Scotland had their own independent Kingdom of the Isles! 


The Norse Longships

 

Longships were ships primarily used by the Scandinavian Vikings and the Saxons to raid coastal and inland settlements during the Middle Ages. The design evolved over several centuries and was fully developed by about the 9th century. But they were still being used in the 12th and 13th centuries by the Norse who had settled in the Orkneys and the Hebrides, the setting for Summer Warrior. The larger ships were also used for long distance trade and commerce, and for exploratory voyages to Iceland, Greenland and beyond.

 

They were long, narrow and light with a shallow draft hull designed for speed. This shallow draft allowed navigation in waters only three feet deep and permitted beach landings, while the ship’s light weight enabled it to be carried over portages. Longships were also double-ended, the symmetrical bow and stern allowing the ship to reverse direction quickly without having to turn around.

 

Dragonships are known from historical sources, such as the 13th century Göngu-Hrólfs Saga (the Saga of Rollo). These longships were elegant and ornately decorated, and were used by those who went í Viking (raiding and plundering). According to the historical sources the ships’ stem posts carried carvings of menacing beasts, such as dragons and snakes, allegedly to protect the ship and crew and to ward off the terrible sea monsters of Norse mythology. This may be the reason why the dragon is found so widely on everyday objects, and why it continued to be used even in the early Christian period in Scandinavia, as in the carvings on Norway’s stave churches at Urnes and Borgund.

 


The size of the ships varied as seen in the number of oars/benches and the number of crew. For example, the Skuldelev 5 (pictured above) is one of the smaller longships and was likely used as part of a war fleet. It had 26 oars and a crew of 30. Its average speed was 6-7 knots and its top speed was 15 knots.

 

The earliest Viking raiders had ships averaging between 32 and 38 oars. Crews of 25 to 60 men would sit on benches on open decks. Over time, the size increased so that ships from Orkney or Norway might average 40 oars. Larger longships carried as many as 100 or more. Earl Hakon of Orkney’s flagship was said to have 54 to 74 oars and carry 300 crew.

 

 Somerled’s West Highland Galleys

 

The West Highland galleys, like those in Somerled’s fleet in my story, most likely would have had 26 oars or less with a crew of about 30-40 men. Somerled, the Norse-Gael who forged the Kingdom of the Isles, is credited with developing the fixed rudder in the stern whereas the Norse longships had a “steer board” on the right side of the ship. The galleys were thus faster and more maneuverable than the Norse longships.

 

The galley, sometimes called a birlinn, was a clinker-built wooden ship, which meant the external planks overlapped the upper edge of the lower plank as did the Norse longships. Initially they were made of oak with a leather sail. These Celtic sailing ships, used as early as 1 B.C. in Ireland, had been plying the seas near Scandinavia since the time of Caesar. Archaeological digs have determined early Viking longships did not have a mast or sail. The Viking mast was a later innovation, probably taken from their seafaring Celtic neighbors.

 

 

“Walker weaves a spellbinding tale of heroism and adventure coupled with a touching love story.” 

~ A Reader’s Review

 

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. All hope seemed lost when he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.

Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.

This is the unforgettable story of the Norse-Gael who forged the Kingdom of the Isles and won the heart of a Norse princess.

 

On Amazon US, UK and Canada

 

Keep in touch with Regan:


Regan's website, Amazon Author Page, BookBub, Regan’s Facebook Readers’ Group, and her Pinterest boards (including one for Summer Warrior).

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

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!


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Kresley Cole’s THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES – High Seas Romance at its Best—a Favorite Heroine and a Keeper!

This is one of my favorite romances set on the high seas with a daring sea captain and a very worthy heroine. It’s a keeper.

 

The story is centered around two competing shipping companies in Victorian England, and two competing captains (the English Earl, Captain Derek Sutherland, and the American Captain, Jason Lassiter), each of whom must win the Great Race from London to Sydney to survive.

 

When Lassiter is imprisoned, his daughter, Nicole, who has been raised at sea and can navigate as well as her father, must win the race for him. Nicole cannot resist the handsome Sutherland, who when he first encounters her in a dockside bar, thinks she's a whore. He wants her and then he's lost for her, but circumstances make them enemies. When sabotage of her ship forces her to join Sutherland on his ship for the rest of the race, her spirit and his wall of stone collide; the result is a fast-paced romance that grabs you.

 

There are many things I can praise Kresley Cole for in her writing, all of which are present in this novel: she gives the reader a real historic setting--London and a major sea race in1856; she weaves wonderfully colorful characters into her story so seamlessly the story becomes a tapestry of lives; the story pulls you in from page one--you feel like you're living it and you cannot put it down; the love scenes seem real, each tailored to the character and the story; she lays a good foundation for the emotion displayed; and the plot is interesting with just enough history to ground you in the time.

 

Cole is simply one of the best romance writers, and even though this was one of her early novels, it is as good as any written today. The sequel is The Price of Pleasure, the story of Derek's brother, Grant, also a sea captain.

 

For nautical historic romance at it's best, I highly recommend this one!


 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Favorite Heroes & Heroines!


It’s that time of year when I share my favorite heroes and heroines from the novels I have rated 5-stars. Noble men who overcome tortured pasts, flaws and the odds against them to pursue love and heroines who persist against great obstacles to be with the man to whom they would give their heart—strong, intelligent women of character. Every one a worthy hero and heroine. The best are set deep in history.

 

Here are my favorites, my Christmas gift to you! This just might be your next year’s reading list!

 

Heroes

 

Garr from THE UNVEILING, by Tamara Leigh

Christopher from A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Houston from TEXAS DESTINY by Lorraine Heath

Ruark from SHANA by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Beaumaris from ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer

Summerton from SUMMERTON by Becca St. John

Jacob from THE CALLING OF THE CLAN by Parris Afton Bonds

Night Hawk from NIGHT FLAME by Catherine Hart

Jamie from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham

Thomas from HOME BY MORNING by Kaki Warner

Jason from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis

Alasdair (“Dair”) from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson

Brigham from REBELLION by Nora Roberts

Bret from WITHOUT WORDS by Ellen O’Connell

Ethan from MOOD INDIGO by Parris Afton Bonds

Sean from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson

Domenico from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys

Felipe Tristan from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys

Fulke from THE OUTLAW KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick

Roger from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills

Alex from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas

Tade from BLACK FALCON’S LADY by Kimberly Cates (formerly NIGHTWYLDE by Kimberleigh Caitlin)

Devon from THE WINDFLOWER by Laura London

Gabriel from BROKEN WING by Judith James

Gannon from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens

Alex from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens

Cord from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell

Anthony from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter

Trevor from LIONS AND LACE by Meagan McKinney

Simon from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham

Ethan from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole

Derek from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole

Rory from BROKEN VOWS by Shirl Henke

Hawk from CAPTURE THE SUN by Shirl Henke

Simon from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley

Shane from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley

Christian from DECEPTIVE HEART by Maureen Kurr

Drake from PIRATE’S ANGEL by Marsha Bauer

Adrian from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne

Cougar from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw

Derek from INNOCENT FIRE by Brenda Joyce

Johnny from THE OUTSIDER by Penelope Williamson

Julian from THE DUKE OF SHADOWS by Meredith Duran

Wolf from LOVE, CHERISH ME by Rebecca Brandewyne

Jesse from ONE WORE BLUE by Heather Graham

Zack from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson

Shay from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson

McCady from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson

Jamie from OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon

Brandon from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Callum from LAIRD OF THE MIST by Paula Quinn

Lucas from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor

Daegan from RAELIKSEN by Renee Vincent

Roc from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham

Francis from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart

Olaf from GOLDER SURRENDER by Heather Graham

 

Heroines

 

Annyn from THE UNVEILING, by Tamara Leigh

Amelia from TEXAS DESTINY by Lorraine Heath

Arabella from ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer

Venetia from VENETIA by Georgette Heyer

Caroline from SUMMERTON by Becca St. John

Catriona from THE CALLING OF THE CLAN by Parris Afton Bonds

Sarah (Flame) from NIGHT FLAME by Catherine Hart

Jassy from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham

Anna from TOUCH OF LACE by Elizabeth DeLancey

Chess from FROM FIELDS OF GOLD by Alexandra Ripley

Tess from THE BLACK ROSE by Christina Skye

Katherine from CLANDARA by Evelyn Anthony

Cat from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson

Anne from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart

Margaret from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens

Mary from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis

Miranda from ONCE MORE MIRANDA by Jennifer Wilde

Oriana from ORIANA by Valerie Vayle

Serena from REBELLION by Nora Roberts

Briar from SLEEP IN THE WOODS by Dorothy Eden

Lysistrata from RANGOON by Christine Monson

Catherine from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson

Juana from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys

Felicia from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys

Lissa from WHEN ANGELS FALL by Meagan McKinney

Jamelyn from SILK AND STEEL by Cordia Byers

Eleanor from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills

Elspeth from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas

Sarah from BROKEN WING by Judith James

Fallon from PRINCESS OF FIRE by Heather Graham

Mary from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens

Katherine from DANCING ON COALS by Ellen O’Connell

Anne from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell

Kayleigh from MY WICKED ENCHANTRESS by Meagan McKinney

Cassie from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter

Isabeau from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham

Maddy from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole

Nicole from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole

Darcy from BEYOND THE CLIFFS OF KERRY by Amanda Hughes

Lauren from THE PRIDE OF THE KING by Amanda Hughes

Scarlett from SCARLETT by Alexandra Ripley

Eleanor from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley

Sara from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley

Summer from THE PIRATE AND THE PAGAN by Virginia Henley

Justine from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne

Flame from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw

Adair from A DANGEROUS LOVE by Bertrice Small

Clementine from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson

Emma from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson

Jessalyn from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson

Heather from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Shanna from SHANNA by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Aislinn from THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Jessie from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor

Whitney from THE PARADISE BARGAIN by Betina Krahn

Skye from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham

Katherine from THE GAME by Brenda Joyce

Kat from CHILDREN OF THE MIST by Aleen Malcolm

Erin from GOLDEN SURRENDER by Heather Graham

Amelia from THE VISCOUNT’S CHRISTMAS TEMPTATION by Erica Ridley

 

And, from my own stories:

 

Ren and Serena from THE RED WOLF’S PRIZE

Jean and Joanna from ECHO IN THE WIND (and the Donet Trilogy)

Somerled and Ragnhild from SUMMER WARRIOR

Monday, December 21, 2020

Victoria Holt’s THE SHADOW OF THE LYNX – Intricate Plot, Complex Love Relationships and a Surprise Ending!

 Set in the Victorian era, this is the story of Nora Tamsin whose father died in Australia searching for gold. Now, she is to travel there to become the ward of her father’s business partner Charles Herrick, who because of his startling eyes, is known as the Lynx. She is attracted to his son, Stirling, a handsome man who is kind to her. But the Lynx has other plans and his effect upon her is overwhelming.

 

Holt does a great job of bringing us interesting characters. We see Australia as it was, the rough life on the edge of the bush. And we see the country life in an English mansion where secrets reside.

 

This story takes you from England to Australia and back again with complex relationships. Those who end up together will surprise you. Treachery lurks in England and the White Ladies estate where the Lynx was sent away in shame that was not of his doing. He wants revenge and will do much to achieve it.

 

Fans of Victoria Holt (of which I am one) will love this. And the ending is a surprise!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Joanna Bourne’s THE BLACK HAWK – Hawker! Great Hero in the Spymaster Series!

The fourth installment in Bourne’s Spymaster series brings us Adrian’s (Hawker’s) story. We met Sir Adrian Hawkhurst in prior episodes, always a charmer, always a man who loved women. We also caught a glimpse of the French girl, Justine DeCabrillac. Both are spies and once they were lovers. She was in the French Secret Service and Adrian, now head of British Intelligence, worked for England. After being separated for over 15 years, Adrian is happy to have her back in his bed but he didn’t count on her arriving there half dead with a wound caused by one of his own black knives. But that is where she ends up when an assassin tries to kill her—an attempt to frame him for murder.

 

Bourne does a great job of showing us how the characters of Justine and Hawk were forged in the fire of difficult circumstances early in life and then shaped by deep rents in history. We knew Hawker’s woman would have to be unusual, right? Well, she is! The action is complex and there are many players. You have to be awake to hold all that is happening in your head. Some of our favorites, Doyle and Pax, return for special appearances.

 

Though they first met in the French Revolution when they were still children really, Hawker and Justine grew up to be talented and smart agents with a lot to offer their countries. The story is told through a series of flashbacks as their paths keep crossing. (You have to be willing to jump around to get the full picture.) My only negative is the time they were separated—years. I didn’t like it when, after 5 years of being lovers, Justine suddenly ends their relationship because she finds he means too much to her. Then they aren’t together again until their late 30s when we finally catch up with them in 1818, which was a bit sad, really. So many lost years. Unusual for a romance. (Was he celibate all those years? No, I didn’t think so either…) Still, it’s a well-written, interesting tale, and includes the kind of historic detail (France and England from 1794-1818) we have come to love in Bourne’s work.

 

The series so far—all recommended:

 

My Lord and Spymaster (London 1811) - 2008

The Spymaster’s Lady (France and England 1802) - 2010

The Forbidden Rose (France 1794) - 2010

The Black Hawk (Paris, beginning in 1794 (seen in flashbacks) and London 1818) – 2011

Rogue Spy (England, 1802)

 

I recommend reading The Forbidden Rose first, as it’s something of a prequel to the others. Black Hawk jumps around quite a bit (1818 to 1794 to 1797 to 1818 to 1802 to 1818) and Hawker’s story is told after Rogue Spy, so you might want to read the series in this order:


 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Rebecca Brandewyne’s LOVE, CHERISH ME: Captivating Saga of the American West

When I finished this book, it was so good, I found myself wanting a sequel. Alas, there is no sequel, but And Gold Was Ours gives us another glimpse of Storm and Wolf.

Who could not love Wolf (El Lobo)? He is a man haunted by his past in an era where bad men seized lands to impose cruel dictates. We don't learn the complete story of Wolf's past until the end, but it's worth the wait. As for the heroine, Storm Lesconflair, the belle of New Orleans, she starts out as an indulged 16-year-old given every advantage, but when her parents die, her life takes a plunge. Rising to every challenge, she becomes a beautiful woman of grace, intelligence and depth. And their love is the love of legends.

The romance is divided into five "books" and spans the time period 1848 to 1866. The first chapter shows us the present, 1866, and it's almost an epilogue that can be skipped till the end (I re-read it after I’d finished the book). Then we are back at the beginning, in 1848, and Storm is being forced into an arranged marriage with a rich, cruel Texas rancher she doesn't love. On her way to meet him, a gang of outlaws overtakes her stagecoach and Storm is taken captive. She is then won in a card game by the gunslinger they call El Lobo, thought to be a half breed Indian but a man all men fear and respect. The darkly handsome gunslinger, dressed in black and silver, seems to have honor and would give her freedom, but Storm prefers his company to the thieves and scoundrels in the bar. So she follows him...

The story unfolds as we travel from New Orleans high society of the mid 1800s to the Texas frontier to San Francisco and then back to Texas. Along the way, Brandewyne introduces us to some wonderful characters, including a group of Comanches who are Wolf's adopted family, and we get to learn about the Indian culture, which had much to suggest to the white man.

If you like romances that sweep you away and the story of love that conquers overwhelming odds, you will love this story. I highly recommend it.


 

Monday, December 14, 2020

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

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.