Monday, April 22, 2019

Best Bodice Ripper Romances!

This is my longest “best list” and I think you will realize why when you see how many classics are on it, books you have long treasured. But among them are also a few new bodice rippers. Some are keepers. If you like stories that feature an alpha male hero who begins demanding his way, but falls at the heroine’s feet in the end to beg forgiveness and confess his love, you’ll find them here.

A Dangerous Love and The Border Lord’s Bride by Bertrice Small
A Gentle Feuding by Johanna Lindsey
A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
A Pirate's Love by Johanna Lindsey
A Secret Rose by Laura Parker
And Gold Was Ours by Rebecca Brandewyne
Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught
Black Sword by Kathryn LeVeque
Bonds of Love by Lisa Gregory (aka Candace Camp)
Bride of the Baja by Jane Toombs
Callista by Cordia Byers
Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey
Chance the Winds of Fortune and the sequel, Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain
Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson
Crimson Rapture by Jennifer Horsman
Damsel in Distress by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Dark Fires by Brenda Joyce
Dawnfire by Lynn Eirckson
Deceive Not My Heart by Shirlee Busbee
Desire in Disguise by Rebecca Brandewyne
Devil's Desire by Laurie McBain
Devil's Embrace by Catherine Coulter
Dream of Me by Josie Litton
Embrace and Conquer by Jennifer Blake
Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
Fair is the Rose by Meagan McKinney
Falsely Accused by Margaret Tanner
Fires of Winter and Hearts Aflame from the Viking trilogy by Johanna Lindsey
Forbidden Love by Karen Robards
Forever and a Lifetime by Jennifer Horsman
Forever My Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
Golden Fancy by Jennifer Blake
Gypsy Lady by Shirley Busbee
Innocent Fire, Firestorm and Fires of Paradise (part of the Bragg Saga) by Brenda Joyce
Into Passion’s Dawn by Michele DuBarry
Island Flame, and the sequel, Sea Fire by Karen Robards
Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson
Lady Highwayman by Tanya Kayley
Lady of Conquest by Teresa Medeiros
Lady of Fire by Anita Mills
Lady Vixen by Shirley Busbee
Lespada by Kathryn Le Veque
Lie Down in Roses by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Lions and Lace by Meagan McKinney
Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne
Love Only Once and Gentle Rogue from the Mallory series by Johanna Lindsey
Love's Wild Desire by Jennifer Blake
Magic Embrace by Jennifer Horsman
Midnight Masquerade by Shirlee Busbee
My Lord Monleigh by Jan Cox Speas
My Wicked Enchantress by Meagan McKinney
No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
Notorious Angel by Jennifer Blake
Once and Always by Judith McNaught
Ondine by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Only With Your Love by Lisa Kleypas
Pirate Royale by Cordia Byers
Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey
Rangoon by Christine Monson
Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne
Royal Seduction from the Royal Princes of Ruthenia duology by Jennifer Blake
Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale
Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small
So Wild A Heart by Veronica Jason
Stormfire by Christine Monson
Sun God by Nan Ryan
Surrender in Moonlight by Jennifer Blake
Surrender the Night by Christine Monson
Swan Road by Rebecca Brandewyne
Sweet Savage Eden by Heather Graham
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
Tender Betrayal by Jennifer Blake
The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux
The Black Rose by Christina Skye
The Black Swan By Day Taylor
The Conqueror by Brenda Joyce
The Darkest Heart by Brenda Joyce
The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt
The Falcon and the Flower by Virginia Henley
The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss
The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys
The Game by Brenda Joyce
The Ground She Walks Upon by Meagan McKinney
The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger
The Pirate and the Pagan by Virginia Henley
The Secret Rose by Laura Parker
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
The Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee
The Storm and the Splendor by Jennifer Blake
The Taming and Ride Out the Storm from a trilogy by Aleen Malcolm
The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss
This Other Eden by Marilyn Harris
Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney
Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney
Under Crimson Sails by Lynna Lawton
Until You by Judith McNaught
Virgin Star by Jennifer Horsman
When Angels Fall by Meagan McKinney
When the Splendour Falls by Laurie McBain
While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee
Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
Wild Bells to the Wild Sky by Laurie McBain
Winter's Heat by Denise Domning

Friday, April 19, 2019

Shirlee Busbee’s DECEIVE NOT MY HEART – A Case of Mistaken Identity and an Intriguing Love Story from old Louisiana—and a Bodice Ripper!

Originally published in 1984 and updated for the eBook version, this is a classic romance from a great historical romance author.

Set in New Orleans and environs beginning in 1799, this is the story of 16-year-old Leonie Saint-Andre, whose only living parent is a gambling grandfather who has impoverished their family’s plantation.

Knowing he does not have long to live, her grandfather decides to take care of Leonie’s future by finding her a wealthy husband. Unfortunately, the man he picks, Morgan Slade, is a bitter man whose first wife married him for his money and then left him for another. And what Leonie’s grandfather does not know is that Morgan has a lookalike cousin who, unbeknownst to Morgan, has assumed his identity in order to wed Leonie to steal her dowry.

Busbee has done her research and the history of Louisiana in the late 18th century is vividly portrayed. It was a time of plantations and the French creole families; and it was a time of dramatic change. Originally claimed by Spain, Louisiana was also claimed by France, and in 1803 most of it was acquired by America.

The plot has many twists and turns, and while the reader knows what is going on, the characters don’t. Lots of sexual tension and angst here as Leonie is deceived, yet she rises as a courageous heroine to triumph in the end. I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Kathleen Woodiwiss’ SHANNA – The Gold Standard for Historical Romance! A Keeper!

This was my first by the queen of the modern historical romance novel, Kathleen Woodiwiss and I highly recommend it. A wonderful Georgian romance. A classic and a keeper!

Set in mid 18th century London, the Caribbean and the Colony of Virginia, this is the story of the strong willed Shanna Trahern, the only daughter of a successful British merchant who has retired with his wealth to his Caribbean island, Los Cammellos. There he is both governor and owner of a thriving plantation and trade business. His much-loved wife has died by the time the story begins and he wants grandchildren from Shanna and he wants them now!

Her father gives Shanna, who has rejected all her suitors, one year to find a suitable husband or he's picking one for her, preferably one with a title. She has no interest in complying and spends that year in London enjoying herself. Nearing the end of the year, she decides that in order to avoid her father's picking a man for her, she'll take a husband from among those in Newgate Prison facing the gallows. Her goal is to be an instant widow with a good name.

She finds Ruark Beauchamp, a convicted murderer, and marries him. When she first sees him, he is dirty, bearded and unkempt, living in the prison's squalor. At the wedding, after her man has cleaned up Ruark, she discovers a handsome, intelligent and virile man who is a bit, well… overwhelming. His price for giving her his name is one night with her after they are wed--a marriage in truth, however brief. He manages to claim a bit of it just before her scheme is discovered. With hatred and anger in his voice, as they drag him away, he vows to hold her to their bargain if God grants him mercy from the hangman's noose.

Unbeknownst to Shanna, that mercy will be granted to him.

This romance is worth your money. At 666 pages of well-told, detailed, historically accurate, page turning romance, it's a keeper! The characters are brilliantly developed and the settings well described. The hero's love for his woman never varied (which I loved). He is a man I'd give up decades for. Kathleen Woodiwiss, who unfortunately is no longer with us, could write!

This is on my Top 20 list!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Veronica Jason’s SO WILD A HEART – Love in the Midst of the French Revolution

This is a classic from 1981 set in 1788 and the years following in France (mostly) on the dawn of the Revolution. It’s also a bodice ripper of sorts. Angelique Dubois was too blonde and too aristocratic to be the daughter of her peasant father and everyone in their small village knew it, including Angelique whose mother told her she was the daughter of a gentleman. But her mother did not tell her she was the granddaughter of the Duc de Rhoulac.

When she was 18 and working in the fields with her half brother, Englishman Sir Richard Lansing, visiting the duke, rode hard through the fields chasing a stag and shoved Angelique’s brother to the ground. A short while later, Angelique’s brother was dead. Seeking revenge, her father attacks one of the duke’s relatives and ends up being hanged for his crime. Her mother was so dazed with grief she was never again herself.

Forced to seek employment, Angelique runs to Paris and there encounters the man she detests. She wants justice but does something very stupid and ends up raped by Lansing, though under circumstances that might exonerate him somewhat.

Angelique goes through many adventures, not all of them pleasant, but all is not lost for she is still a duke’s granddaughter. But she will make another stupid decision that sees her forced to marry Lansing and move to England.

Meanwhile, she has the memory of a kind man, Jacques Latour, who was all that Angelique admired—courageous, idealistic and unselfish. Though she did not share his passion, she willingly she gave herself to this gallant revolutionary. But that was before Lansing…

Jason has obviously done her historical homework. The story is rich in details of the time and you do get a sense for what the people of France, ordinary people as well as the nobility, lived through. I recommend it, particularly if you are interested in the period.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Victoria Holt’s THE SILK VENDETTA – A Brilliant Story of the Tangled Web of a Family Devoted to Silk

Set in Victorian England and France, this is the story of Lenore Cleremont, a French girl raised by her grand mere in England where she serves “The Silk House” as a gifted silk designer and dressmaker. Lenore is educated with the family’s children but knows she is not one of them. The family has two daughters and two sons. One of the sons, Philip, is kind; the other, Charles, is not. One of the daughters becomes Lenore’s dear friend; the other her jealous adversary.

When she is 15, Lenore’s grand mere tells her she is illegitimate and that her mother, a beauty who fell in love with the master’s son, died in childbirth. As Lenore comes into womanhood, she loses at love twice as she is caught up in a tangled quest for vengeance. And then an arrogant French count reveals a secret from her past.

I have to say I do love Victoria Holt’s stories and this is no exception. You will be drawn in to Lenore’s life, wanting her to find happiness, but despairing when she does not. Murder, treachery and betrayal populate this book but, in the end, all the threads come together. Lenore finds a man she can truly love and the mystery is finally solved.

If you love Victoria Holt, this is one not to be missed! It's a keeper!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Johanna Lindsey’s A PIRATE’S LOVE – a Privateer and the Woman He Seized

Set in the 17th century beginning in France in1667, this is the story of Tristan Matisse whose family was brutally slain by a Spaniard who plundered the coastal towns of France, and Bettina Verlaine, who was betrothed by her father to a wealthy count living in St. Martin. On her way to meet her betrothed, who she does not know, Bettina’s ship is seized by the privateer Tristan who sails for England plundering Spanish ships.

From the beginning, it is clear that Tristan intends to have Bettina in his bed. He considers her spoils, no matter she is an innocent. And high-spirited Bettina will have none of it, so he rapes her. Though he told her he was taking her to St. Martin for ransom by her wealthy betrothed, he decides instead to take her to his island hideout and keep her some months until he “tires of her.” What quickly becomes apparent is that he has no intention of letting her go. While he holds Bettina, he searches for the man who killed his family, Don Miguel Bastida.

Lindsey does a superb job of describing the emotions experienced by Bettina—she could not give in to the pleasure she might experience with Tristan because to do so would be to betray her betrothed. She was feisty and courageous and I loved her. While it was a bit difficult to understand Tristan’s comfort with his own actions given his childhood, somehow Lindsey made us believe it was possible. And I came to like Tristan in spite of his treatment of Bettina, for he genuinely cared for her. Eventually, his more noble side comes out, and even Bettina, who has suffered his “ruining her life,” comes to see it.

There are many well drawn characters along the way, including Jules, the man who watches Tristan’s back, and Bettina’s mother who confesses to Bettina the cold man she thought was her father actually is not. Lindsey makes this an exciting tale with subplots and twists and turns—and the visits to many ports in the Caribbean. She had me turning pages late into the night.

It’s on both my Best Bodice Rippers and my Best Pirate and Privateer Romances lists. A keeper!

Friday, April 5, 2019

A New Collection of Medieval Romances... A WARIOR'S HEART!

From your favorite USA Today, bestselling and award-winning historical authors come adventure and passion in one set! A WARRIOR'S HEART... A new collection of medieval romances that includes my story "Rogue Knight".

Get the boxed set on Amazon for 99¢! and journey back in time to fall in love with A Warrior’s Heart!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sara Hely’s THE LEGEND OF THE GREEN MAN – Superb Storytelling in this Irish Classic

Set at the dawn of the Regency period some years after the defeat of the Irish Rebellion in 1798, this is the story of an aristocratic young English widow, Lady Kitty Harcomb, who sets off with her young son and his nanny for Ireland. Fleeing the scandal-ridden ton in London, she decides to pay a visit to her Irish suitor, Sir William Fossick. Perhaps she would even marry him and settle down at last. Of course, she did not love him, but lobe played no part in her plans.

On a stormy night in Ireland as her coachman refuses to continue, she is saved from the elements by a local hero, Luke Denny, who is the head of the poor Dennys, a family whose other branch sided with the English and gained an earldom. 

Luke and Kitty meet in a ruined Irish castle, where he holds her at gunpoint. But he quickly realizes she is not the one he thought her to be. He takes her and her young son to his home where she becomes involved in the Denny family and a world of danger, intrigue and her own attraction to Luke Denny.

This story reminded me of Victoria Holt tales. It’s told mostly from the heroine’s perspective. I was immediately drawn in and could not stop turning pages as the plot thickened and the past came to haunt the present. I had to know what happened to the beautiful Lady Kitty and the mysterious Luke Denny.

Luke is a winning hero and Lady Kitty a heroine with spunk. I could not help but love them. And, I loved this story. Written in the 1970s it is still fresh today. I only wish Hely had written more than a few stories.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Tanya Kaley’s LADY HIGHWAYMAN – 18th century Bodice Ripper (sort of) and an Enthralling Story!

April is Classics and Bodice Ripper month. I’m starting with an exciting story, Tanya Kaley’s debut novel.

The story begins in the North West of England in 1743, where Rosalinda lives in poverty with her parents and three brothers on Lord Windermere’s magnificent estate. In a cruel response to her brothers’ poaching to put food on the table, the boys are sent away and her husband transported to the Colonies. Thus, Rosie loses her family in one fell swoop. Seeing the men lusting after Rosie’s virtue, her mother decides to send her to London to live with her aunt, never knowing the aunt runs a bawdy house, the worst of its kind.

Before she leaves, Rosie encounters a handsome highwayman, who is the alienated son of an English lord. Blake Glenowen, a dark, mysterious figure, takes a fancy to the beautiful young woman, repeatedly saving her from those who would rob her innocence or do her harm. Yet all the while, he warns her of danger, including himself, as he covets her innocence.

Will she be robbed her of her innocence by Blake, or will Blake do the noble thing? Blake cannot marry her, as he has no life to share with a woman. Yet, when they finally get together, Rosie will join him in his highwayman’s adventures.

This is very much a “perils of Pauline” story as Rosie goes from one misadventure and narrow escape to another, in both England and France, all the while thinking of her dark savior. The characters are endearing and the story captivates. For a time, Rosie lives with Gypsies and learns to love their culture though a Gypsy king is determined to have her for his woman. And Blake hovers in the background.

It is well written and exciting. There are bodice-ripping elements, to be sure, but the hero never forces the heroine. The ending is a bit abrupt, and there are a few forms of address issues, but there’s enough story here to satisfy the discerning historical romance reader.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Donna Fletcher’s THE IRISH DEVIL – Endearing Irish Love Story

Set in 1171, this is the story of a powerful, undefeated warrior (“the Irish Devil”) who was awarded lands and the choice of a lord’s daughters for his wife in exchange for his loyalty to the Irish king.

Eric of Shanekill chooses the gentle but courageous Lady Faith, not realizing she bears the scar of a brutal attack years ago and has lived with the shame inflicted upon her. Like the others, when Eric learns she was attacked, he assumes the worst—that her innocence was taken. As a result, he refuses to consummate the marriage until he knows the truth. Faith stubbornly refuses to tell him, wanting him to believe she is still a virgin.

It’s a well-told tale with intrigue and a murder for Eric and his valiant men to solve. I loved the faithful dog that guarded Faith. Rook became a central character, with charm and noble nature…and in the end a hero. You will love him. 

Fletcher did a great job of developing Eric and his two closest friends, his half brother Borg and Colin. Faith was an endearing heroine, strong and caring, who turned a tragedy into doing good for others. I enjoyed this romance and recommend it.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Jo Beverly’s DANGEROUS JOY – Persnickety Irish Heroine Hides a Secret

Set in 1816 in Ireland and England, this is the story of Irishman Miles Cavanagh, heir to the Lord of Kilgoran, who finds himself the guardian to Felicity Monahan, a twenty-year-old heiress who is intent on marrying a man she does not like so she can look after the man’s son who she loves. Refusing to let Felicity throw her life away, Miles kidnaps his ward and carries her off to England. Along the way, he realizes he wants Felicity for himself.

Much of this well told story involves Miles bickering with his rebellious ward who hides a secret she refuses to share, constantly putting herself in danger. Her way of handling that secret may try the reader’s patience. The story of the carriage ride from the coast to their destination in England was very well done even if it was difficult to endure.

There’s much talk of horses but only a few shots of them. There are more scenes with cats…cats with engaging personalities. There are enough scenes in Ireland to give the story an Irish feel. This story is part of a series and, until they reach England, the characters in those do not play a part. But since they eventually do, this is one I’d recommend reading in order.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Julie Doherty’s SCATTERED SEEDS – Worthy Scots-Irish Heroes Find Love in the New World!

Set in 1755, beginning in Donegal, Ireland, this is the story of Henry McConnell and his father, Edward, farmers who assume false names and escape debts and drought in Ireland to sail to the New World. Before they leave, Henry’s father gives him their most treasured possession, passed from one son to another: a gold torc from their ancestor, Somerled.

The night before the ship sails, Henry finds love in the arms of a widow named Sarah. On the ship, Henry reconnects with a childhood friend, Mary Patterson. Both men realize their love for but they are separated from them by distance (in the case of Sarah) and in the case of Mary, when a man purchases her indenture.

After a grueling ship journey (very well done by the author), Henry and his father travel deep into the frontier. That journey is also very well told. It’s an exciting one. I felt like I was trudging along with them with their one ox and their blistered feet. I could see the beauty of this new world and yet feared the obstacles they faced. Constant setbacks have them worried about their seed and their lives: Indian attacks, the threat of new forts, a bear stealing the food they laid up for the winter and many other hardships.

In this romance, the two heroes are separated from their ladyloves for much of the book. The women are still in their minds and hearts but not with them. When they finally get word of both Sarah and Mary, the men go after them, but a villain is stalking the precious torc.

Doherty’s research shines through as she brings America’s wilderness and this period in America’s history to life. Her descriptions are vivid and the historical era well presented. She captures the Scots-Irish longing for freedom and their commitment to the new land, notwithstanding the trials they must endure.

A uniquely told tale, it’s also a fast-paced, action-packed story that is a delight to read. I recommend it.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pamela Ford’s TO RIDE A WHITE HORSE – Wonderful Story of Love Across a Divide and Ireland’s Woes

Set in Ireland and America, beginning in 1846, this is the story of Kathleen Deacey who leaves Ireland for America hoping to help her starving family and her missing fiancé.
She despises the English for taking Ireland’s wheat and refusing to help them in their hour of need.

On the terrible voyage across the Atlantic, she is saved from the sea by an English whaling captain, Jack Montgomery. Jack is a noble hero who would deliver Kathleen to her destination but finds he is reluctant to let her go. Their interactions and chemistry are well done and engaging. I came to love them both. Kathleen has spunk despite her life’s tragedies.

In Boston, Kathleen realizes Jack is a gentleman of a higher class and her growing love for him can lead to nowhere. Jack, destined for a wealthy bride his grandfather wants for him, only wants Kathleen.

Ford’s story reflects much research into the era, which I really value. She paints a poignant picture of Ireland’s dire condition, America’s valiant response and love that triumphs in the midst of tragedy. Exciting shipboard scenes and a vivid description of 19th century whaling practices add to the excitement of the voyage to America. And the fiancé? Oh, yes, he shows up. You must read this story. It’s historical romance at its finest.

I recommend this to you. It’s a keeper!