Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Parris Afton Bonds’ LAVENDER BLUE – Love, Civil War and Spies in Texas!

Jeanette St. John, a Civil War widow living in Texas in 1862, is looking to aid the Confederacy by trading her cotton for weapons she can supply the South. But the only ship’s captain able to run the North’s blockade is a Frenchman named “Kitt, the Frenchman,” operating out of Mexico. And so she goes to see him and agrees to a strange bargain: her virtue for his successful runs of cotton for arms and ammunition.

 

Meanwhile Jen has a childhood friend, now grown into a handsome man and returned from years in France, one Cristobal Cavazos, who would have her think he is a gay fop when he is anything but.

 

When the war draws near Jen’s home in Brownsville, Jen’s sea captain father orders her to the North where he lives, but she has no intention of going. She thrives on the excitement and danger around her. So she talks Cristobal into marrying her—a marriage of convenience where they will live their separate lives. And then the Frenchman, Kitt insists she keeps the terms of their bargain.

 

Of course I knew that Cristobal was Kitt, but even knowing that, I loved watching Jen stumble around doubting the virility of her husband. Cristobal was a great hero and put up with Jen’s snippy overreactions to learning of his assumed identity. The story is intriguing as both Cristobal and Jen take on the role of spy, her for the Confederacy and he for the Juaristas in Mexico.

 

The story reflects Bonds’ considerable research and events of the Civil War in Texas. It’s a story of second chances and love in the middle of tumultuous times and in a tumultuous relationship. And there are some well-written exciting scenes as Cristobal tries to outrun the Union troops. Very enjoyable!


 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Candace Proctor’s THE BEQUEST – Unusual Western Historical Romance

Set in Central City, Colorado in 1874, this story of the post-Civil War west makes for a most interesting romance. Proctor writes exceptionally well and the story will definitely hold your attention. There is lots of action, mystery and a love that will tear at your heart. If you've ever love a man who couldn't return your love because of his haunted past, this one's for you.

Gabrielle Antoine has been raised in a New Orleans convent, believing she is an orphan. Her dream is to one day have a school for girls. Then one day, as a young woman, she finds out her mother only recently died and has left her a house and a business in Colorado. Gabrielle is most curious and decides to go there to learn more about her mother. It turns out the house and business are the same--a brothel--and her mother was the madam who, while still a beautiful woman at 40, was murdered. Once in Colorado, Gabrielle meets her mother's business partner, a tough ex-Confederate officer and former Texas Ranger named Jordan Hays, whose brothers died in the war and whose pregnant wife was raped and murdered by Union soldiers. He is one cold guy, but he can also be charming and he charms Gabrielle. An innocent virgin, Jordan tells her he will take her innocence and leave her with less than she had when he leaves as he intends to do. He has no desire to marry again. He thinks it will be easy to take her and ruin her. It is and he does. Gee, what a good guy (not!). Gabrielle's one fear is becoming like her mother...and it seems Jordan is willing to help her down that path. Then comes a bad guy who wants the brothel to add to his kingdom, and he doesn't care who he has to corrupt or murder to get it.

There are wonderful secondary characters, the prostitutes in the bordello, their children and the villains (and there are more than one!). As Gabrielle develops a heart for the women and their children, so will you. We are all a product of our pasts and these women had very difficult pasts.

Though Proctor lives in Australia, she writes about Colorado as if she had been a long time resident. Her descriptions of the natural beauty of the place are quite accurate and well done. She is a master storyteller. Suddenly, you are back in the west of the 19th century when people were trying to carve a life for themselves out of the rugged terrain and difficult circumstances.

I recommend this one!


 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Johanna Lindsey’s ONE HEART TO WIN – Handsome Cowboy for a New York Girl

 

Set in Montana in the last half of the 19th century, this is the story of Tiffany Warren, a young lady of New York who was betrothed to a son of a rancher when she was quite young to end a feud between two families. She wants no part of it but is willing to go there for two months to see her intended, Hunter, the eldest son of the Callahans, the enemies of the Warrens.


On the way, Tiffany experiences a train robbery and then is accosted by the Callahans who think she is the Warrens’ new housekeeper and offer her double wages to work for them. Tiffany accepts in order to secretly assess the man she is supposed to marry. She finds Hunter Callahan to be a charming, sexy cowboy who she vows to resist. However, she doesn’t resist Hunter’s charms for long. They end up in bed in a hayloft. So much for propriety. Apparently ignorant of how that behavior can lead to being with child, Tiffany rebuffs his proposal.

 

It’s a fun read but not my favorite by Lindsey. Hunter is a charmer whose intensions aren’t all bad. He’s a good older brother and good in a fight. The feud between the families seems real enough but Tiffany’s disdain for her father (who actually loves her) seemed a tad contrived. No, he wasn’t in her life but then that was by her mother’s choice. There is a mystery that is resolved in the end, rather quickly. The two love scenes were rushed and strong-willed Tiffany melted whenever Hunter approached. Still, it will bring you to the West and some handsome cowboys.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Shirl Henke’s BROKEN VOWS – Superb Storytelling!

 

Set in Nevada in the late 19th century (beginning in 1870) during the silver boom on the Comstock Lode, Henke delivers a superb tale of young love, prejudice (against the Irish among others), deception, treachery and love’s second chances. I highly recommend it.

 

Rebekah Sinclair, a small town preacher’s daughter, and Rory Madigan, an impoverished Irish immigrant who worked his way West as a prizefighter, meet and quickly fall in love. In a night of passion, they vow to love each other forever and Rory asks Rebekah to marry him assuring her he will find a way to make enough money to win her parents’ respect. However, an evil rich man who wants Rebekah on his arm as he rises in politics conspires to keep Rory from her; his efforts are aided by the bigotry of Rebekah’s family. As a result Rory and Rebekah are separated, each believing they were betrayed by the other. Rory and Rebekah meet again years later when Rory is rich and influential and bent on revenge. But true love will have its day….

I could not put it down and my emotions were truly engaged. I ended up reading it through much of the night, it was that good. Her wonderful characters are richly drawn and her plot weaves an intriguing story.

 

Henke gives us a taste of the West when it was still wild enough that murder and corruption went without retribution, when powerful men used others for their own greed and lust. Then, too, living in America now, we forget the Irish were not just persecuted by the English in Ireland; they were persecuted here as well. Though Rebekah was poor, her family would never consider an Irish Catholic an acceptable husband, no matter how much she loved him. Thank God it’s a romance and all comes right in the end.

 

You won’t regret getting this one!

Saturday, June 1, 2024

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

June is Western month. I’m starting with a classic, a historical romance that will tear at your heart. It covers twelve years (1879-1891) in the lives of Americans trying to carve out a life in Montana frontier. Williamson weaves 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 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!


 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Best Scottish Historical Romances!

 

Geddes MacGregor once wrote, “No one in Scotland can escape from the past. It is everywhere, haunting like a ghost.” Scotland’s past is the subject of this Best List, romance novels set in Scotland, most in that magical part of Scotland called the Highlands. Some have a Scot as hero or heroine. The best are set deep in Scotland’s history. All are rated 4 or 5 stars. Enjoy!

 

·               A Dangerous Love, The Border Lord’s Bride, The Captive Heart, The Border Lord And The Lady, The Border Vixen and Bond Of Passion (from The Border Chronicles) by Bertrice Small

·               A Gentle Feuding by Johanna Lindsey

·               A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

·               A Year and a Day by Virginia Henley

·               Abducted Heiress by Amanda Scott

·               Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught

·               Beloved Rogue by Penelope Williamson

·               Blood Feud by Jayne Castel

·               Border Lord by Arnette Lamb

·               Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins

·               Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas

·               Charming the Shrew and Daring the Highlander (MacLeod duology) by Laurin Wittig

·               Children of the Mist by Aleen Malcolm

·               Claimed by Tarah Scott

·               Clandara by Evelyn Anthony

·               Come The Morning, Conquer the Night, Seize the Dawn, Knight Triumphant, The Lion in Glory, When We Touch and The Queen’s Lady (the Graham series) by Heather Graham Pozzessere

·               Davy’s Last Ride by Brit Darby

·               Desiring the Highlander by Michele Sinclair

·               Devil of Kilmartin by Laurin Wittig

·               Devil’s Mistress by Heather Graham

·               Emerald Embrace by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

·               Forever My Love by Rebecca Brandewyne

·               Gather the Stars by Kimberly Cates

·               by Elizabeth Stuart

·               Heather House: Witch of the Moors by Carmen Caine

·               Highland Deception by Meggan Connors

·               Highland Moon by Judith E. French

·               Highland Rebel by Judith James

·               Highland Warrior, Highland Outlaw and Highland Scoundrel (the Campbell trilogy) by Monica McCarty

·               Highlander’s Hope by Collette Cameron

·               If You Dare, If You Desire and If You Deceive (the MacCarrick Brothers trilogy) by Kresley Cole

·               In From the Cold by Nora Roberts

·               His Stolen Bride by Shelly Thacker

·               Kilgannon and The Wild Rose of Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens

·               King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett

·               Knight of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

·               Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson

·               Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (and the MacGregor/Children of the Mist Series)

·               Lord of a Thousand Nights by Madeline Hunter

·               Lord of Fire by Emma Merritt

·               Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

·               My Lord Monleigh by Jan Cox Speas

·               My Wicked Enchantress by Meagan McKinney

·               On a Highland Shore and Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens

·               Oriana by Valerie Vayle

·               Rebellion by Nora Roberts

·               Rosamund by Bertrice Small

·               Silk and Steel by Cordia Byers

·               Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham

·               Snow Raven by Patricia McAllister

·               Tempest Heart by Paula Quinn

·               Tempted and The Border Hostage, duology by Virginia Henley

·               The Bedeviled Heart, The Daring Heart and The Bold Heart by Carmen Caine

·               The Border Bride by Elizabeth English

·               The Border Lord by Jan Westcott

·               The Captive by Parris Afton Bonds

·               The Chieftain’s Curse by Francis Housden

·               The Daughters of Cameron by Aleen Malcolm

·               The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (from the Lymond Chronicles series)

·               The Guardian by Genevieve Graham

·               The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride by Cathy MacRae

·               The Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

·               The Lady’s Protector by Emma Prince

·               The Legend and the sequel, The Destiny by Kathleen Givens

·               The Magnificent Rogue by Iris Johansen

·               The Passionate One, The Reckless One and The Ravishing One (the McClairen’s Isle trilogy) by Connie Brockway

·               The Pride of Lions, The Blood of Roses and Midnight Honor by Marsha Canham

·               The Renegade (first released as The Renegade and The Rose) by Christine Dorsey

·               The Queen’s Lady by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

·               The Taming, Ride Out the Storm and The Daughters of Cameron by Aleen

            Malcolm

·               The Scotsman by Juliana Garnett (aka Virginia Brown)

·               The Scottish Bride by Catherine Coulter

·               The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney

·               The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

·               Threads of Destiny by Arnette Lamb

·               To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt (one of the Four Soldiers series)

·               To Conquer a Highlander, Highland Hellcat and Highland Heat by Mary Wine

·               To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett (from the House of Niccolo series)

·               White Knight by Jaclyn Reding

·               Without Honor by Elizabeth Stuart

 

I hope you will consider my own novels set in Scotland’s past:

 

·      Rebel Warrior, part of the award-winning Medieval Warriors series

·      The Refuge, an Inspirational Novel of Scotland, winner of the Illumination Awards’ Gold Medal

·      A Secret Scottish Christmas, book 5 in the Agents of the Crown Regency series

·      The Holly & The Thistle, a Regency novella

·      Summer Warrior, Bound by Honor and The Strongest Heart from the award-winning Clan Donald Saga of historical fiction

 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bertrice Small’s THE BORDER LORD AND THE LADY – Captivating and Unique!


Once I got past the realization that Bertrice Small historical romances are very different than others, the things that at first distracted (long narratives, repeated scenes told through different characters’ eyes, and “head hopping” from one character’s perspective to another in rapid succession) became a rich background for a captivating story. Then, too, one has to love the historical part of historical romance as Small gives you a lot of what was going on at the time, including the food they ate. Finally, her stories do not all have one hero and one heroine who live happily ever after. The Border Lord and the Lady is just such a book. Oh, there is a happy ending, don't get me wrong, but it won’t be what you expect. Nevertheless, it is very realistic for the time (15th century) and the place (the border between Scotland and England). And it's a wonderful story.


Lady Cicely Bowen was the much loved daughter of her widowed father, the Earl of Leighton. But when he remarries, his new wife is so jealous that the earl has to send Cicely away to foster at court to ensure her safety. There, living in Queen Joan’s household, she becomes a lady and the best friend of the king's cousin, Lady Joan Beaufort. When her cousin marries the young James Stewart, King of Scots, Cicely follows her to Scotland. There Cicely expects to have her choice of husbands, as promised by her father and agreed to by King James. But one of the border lords, Ian Douglas, laird of Glengorm, is smitten with her and decides she is the only one for him. Tired of fighting her other suitors for access to her, he engages in a bit of bride stealing, practically a tradition in Scotland.

To say this is the love story of Cicely and Ian is only part of the story. This tale goes on for several years and much happens in the lives of all those in Scotland who are a part of Cicely's life. I won’t spoil it for you but I will say I was a bit shocked when certain events happened. But I did recognize it as reality and got over it very quickly as the story continued to intrigue me. I highly recommend this one.

Also, I recommend reading Small’s Betrayed with or before this romance. It is the story of Fiona Hay, introduced in The Border Lord and The Lady, and it’s a worthy read.

The Border Chronicles series:

A Dangerous Love
The Border Lord's Bride
The Captive Heart
The Border Lord and the Lady
The Border Vixen
Bond of Passion

Monday, May 20, 2024

Nora Roberts’ REBELLION – Superb Storytelling of the Rising of 1745 and a Love That Would Not be Denied – A Keeper!

It begins in 1735 when Serena MacGregor’s home in the Highlands is invaded by British dragoons and her mother is raped by their leader who wants to shame a Highland’s chief’s wife. And that night hatred for the English was born in Serena. Ten years later, in 1745, her brother Coll brings home his friend, Brigham Langston, whose mother might have been a MacDonald but he is English.

 

Serena means to hate Brigham but ends up falling in love. Brigham wants the fiery tempered lass and means to have her. But there is a matter of the Jacobite Rising of 1745 that will interfere. I loved these two characters.

 

It’s a time of rebellion in the Highlands as the Scots, sick of English oppression, long for their Bonnie Prince Charlie, their “king across the waters” to return and reclaim his throne. The Germans may reign in England but the Scots want their true king restored.

 

When I read about the Battle of Culloden that took place in 1746 and see the images that represent that fateful day, I am always deeply saddened. Not just for the battle that was lost or the thousands of Scots slain, but for the cruelty of England inflicted thereafter on a generation of Highlanders. The English destroyed a way of life.

 

Roberts brings this time in Scotland’s history to life with superb storytelling, wonderful characters and brilliant dialog. Rich in historical detail and passion-filled love, this is a keeper. I fell in love with Brigham whose heart beat to the Highlands though he was an English lord. And I cheered on Serena as she finally decided to claim the man her own heart could not deny.

 

First published in 1988, this is the story of the historical roots for Roberts’ contemporary MacGregor series. I am so sorry she gave us only two historical romance novels before moving on to other genres as her historicals are very, very good.