Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Karen Robards’ SEA FIRE –Sequel to Island Flame as Exciting a Pirate Story as the First

 

This is the sequel to Robards’ Island Flame and it involves the same hero and heroine two years after their “happily ever after” in book 1. Like the first one, this is an 80’s bodice ripper, so accept that going in, but it is very well done and I recommend it.

 

Robards knows how to write historical romance. Few authors could follow the same couple after the happily ever after and still produce great sexual tension, a suspenseful story and as many twists and turns, but Robards does and with great success in my mind.

 

Sea Fire is set in 1844, beginning in South Carolina where Jonathan Hale and his wife, Catherine (“Cathy”) are living with their young son, Cray. When word arrives her father is ill, Cathy hurries back to England with her young son to find her father recovering from what appears to be a stroke. Meanwhile Cathy learns her marriage to Jon was not valid and cannot wait to get back to America and wed him again. But before she can leave, her pirate husband shows up and is seized and thrown in prison. Harold, her cousin who has designs on her—and her money—tells Cathy he will save the pirate from hanging if she agrees to marry him.  

 

Like the first story, we are once again immersed in the troubled but sexually charged relationship of Cathy and Jon. His past will not allow him to trust any woman, much less the beautiful minx he married. Cathy loves him, but is too proud to admit it when he treats her like a cad. Still, she will save him from death if she can.

 

A great tale with many twists and turns and lots of action. Yes, Jon is a brute at times and Cathy’s a brat, but I still kept reading it late into the night. I recommend it. If you liked Island Flame, I daresay you will like this one.


Monday, February 19, 2024

Karen Robards’ ISLAND FLAME – An Exciting Story with Pirates—very well done!


You cannot beat Robards for an exciting read. This one and its sequel Sea Fire are bodice rippers, too. Every now and then, an arrogant alpha male (in this case a sea captain) can be cathartic, reminding us that all historical romance heroes are not all nice guys. This one certainly wasn’t. The heroine starts out as a 17-year-old innocent brat, but she quickly grows up and actually develops a very mature outlook. She may take longer than some to get there, but eventually, she sees the light.

 

Set in 1842, this is the story of Lady Catherine Aldley, whose father sent her on a military ship to London from Lisbon where he was an ambassador, never knowing it is a silver transport ship and bate for an American pirate named Jonathan Hale, who thinks nothing of ruining an innocent wellborn lady half his age to have his pleasure. Cathy may be young and innocent but she is not tame. When Captain Hale captures her and sets out to tame her in a most brutal way, he has no idea that he will become her victim.

 

Say what you will about the old romances that don’t reflect 21st century sensibilities, but I can tell you this: this story kept me reading hours past my bedtime and that, folks, is a well-told tale. The pacing is fast, the action never ceasing and the chemistry between the two is compelling. Great sexual tension.

 

Modern historical romance authors can learn much from Robards. She makes some masterful twists and turns, I must say. All believable, which counts for much in my book. However, there was definitely some Stockholm syndrome going on as Cathy came to see herself at fault (“she had brought her injuries on herself”), and the captain as heroic. Yes, he saved her from a band of nasty thieves and murderers in Cadiz, but she never would have been exposed to them in the first place if he hadn’t taken her captive.

 

I also thought Robards did a great job with the ship setting and the sailor/ship jargon, bringing to life the ship’s culture. You might take that for granted, but having done that work for my novel, Wind Raven, I know it required much work on her part. Her descriptions put you in the setting, trust me. If you love a good bodice ripper…this is a great one!

 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Virginia Henley’s THE HAWK AND THE DOVE - A Privateer to Love, a Sea Hawk, and a fiercely independent Irish lass...oh yes!

I love Henley’s attention to historic detail and her ability to weave a captivating tale. This one is no different. The story is set in 1586, when Queen Elizabeth ruled England and her sea hawks ruled the seas, robbing the Spanish fleet to fill her coffers. Captain Shane Hawkhurst was Queen Bess' favorite. She named him “the sea god.” He was, in fact, not the son of Lord Hawkhurst, but the son of an Irishman named O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. But his English father claimed him as heir, and when Shane’s father died, Shane became Lord Hawkhurst.

 

Shane had promised his father he would marry, and to stave off Queen Bess’ jealousy and because he did not really want a wife, he had his solicitor find a country lass who had some land in Ireland he wanted and married her by proxy. Little did he know his new wife was the red-haired Irish vixen, Sara Bishop, referred to by her jealous half siblings as “Sabre Wilde” after her dead father and his sword. Shane planned to have his brother Matthew take Sara to one of his estates and dump her there, never wishing to meet her. Ah, but Sara—as Sabre—has a different plan. She intends to go to Court and seduce her husband and become his mistress, making him her love slave and having her revenge.

You have to love this heroine. She is fiercely independent, courageous, feisty and smart. Just the woman to tame a wild man like Shane Hawkhurst. And Shane is a man worthy of taming. Both have Irish blood running through their veins—at a time when Queen Elizabeth feared the rebellious Irish. So the sparks fly continuously. It’s one of the things Henley does so well—excellent characters and a plot with great twists and turns!

Henley’s love scenes are unique and fit the people and the story, so very well done, very sexy, tasteful and not contrived. It is so worth it to dive into one of her complex, winsome tales.

 

In addition to wonderful characters, a great plot and interesting history, she has included some great one-liners. One of my favorites was: “...to be Irish is to know the world will break your heart before you are thirty”. So true.


 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Elizabeth Chadwick’s THE SUMMER QUEEN – First in a Series about the Magnificent Eleanor of Aquitaine

Set in the 12th century, this is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who at 13 lost her father and was forced to marry the young Prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen. Louis is a disappointment to the intelligent young queen, preferring his devotion to the church to her or much else. In addition, she has a mother-in-law no one would want. Her sister  Petronella is self-willed and Eleanor must deal with her as well.

 

Eleanor gives birth to a daughter (to Louis’ disappointment) and then he forces her to go on Crusade with him because he does not trust her with France while he is away. With their marriage in trouble ,Eleanor falls in love with an old flame and, missing Aquitaine, seeks an annulment from her marriage.

 

This is another well-written historical novel by Chadwick based on much research into some truly interesting characters, Eleanor being the primary one. I enjoyed it. It’s the first in her Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. Henry of Anjou only shows up toward the end and one must read book 2 for their marriage.

 

The Summer Queen

The Winter Crown

The Autumn Throne


 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Danelle Harmon’s LORD OF THE SEA –American Privateers in the War of 1812!

Set during the War of 1812 in the Caribbean, this is the story of Capt. Connor Merrick, a cavalier Yankee privateer, and Rhiannon Evans, a young British girl.

 

Rhiannon wants an adventure and so she accepts an invitation to winter at the home of Sir Graham Falconer in Barbados, who happens to be Connor’s brother-in-law. On the way, pirates attack her ship, and Connor saves her and takes her to Sir Graham’s. Intending to leave to hunt British merchant ships, Conner stays long enough to get trapped into marrying the young Rhiannon.

 

Harmon has woven an entertaining seafaring tale of divided loyalties with an American privateer whose sister is married to a British admiral. Reckless and daring, yet insecure about his ability to be his famous father’s equal, Connor takes one British prize ship after another, all this in his brother-in-law’s backyard. Meanwhile, Rhiannon, a naïve young woman in many ways, quickly grows up trying to keep up with Connor—and keep him out of trouble, an effort that is doomed to failure.

 

The descriptions of the ships and sails and all things nautical are done exceptionally well and will keep you turning pages as Connor faces pirates, battles at sea and storms. There is deep emotion, too, as Connor comes to terms with his own frailties and the strengths of others.

 

It’s been a while since I read one of Harmon’s seafaring adventures, so I was a bit lost when characters from her other books made an appearance and there were references to earlier stories. I say this only to suggest you might want to read this book as a part of the series, and in order.

 

The Heroes of the Sea series:

 

My Lady Pirate

Captain of My Heart

Master of My Dreams

   The Admiral’s Heart (Short Story)

Lord of The Sea

 


 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Michelle Beattie’s HER PIRATE TO LOVE – Ruthless Pirate, Gracious Pirate... The Heroine Experiences Both

Set in 1664 in the Caribbean, this is the story of pirate Sam Steele, a name assumed by Cale Hunter, to escape the tragedy that befell him when his wife and son disappeared leaving behind evidence of slaughter.

 

Grace Sullivan, an Irish lass, who defied her parents and took a ship to Ireland, or so she thought. Instead, she became the captive of the ruthless pirate, Roche Santiago who raped and tortured her, enjoying her pain. When Steele rescues her, she is reluctant to accept his help, fearing to trust no man, especially when she realizes she is pregnant with Roche’s child.

 

Amazon lists this as the first in the Sam Steele series, but it has the feel of a book in the middle of a series as some of Steele’s couple friends are characters (toward the end) and their stories are alluded to. It can be read as a stand alone, however.

 

There’s a lot of introspection in this book, some seemed repetitive, but if you don’t mind that (or you like it), you will enjoy the read. It’s well researched and there are some exciting fighting scenes, including one at the end when Roche Santiago shows up. It’s a pirate romance so some violence is to be expected. I enjoyed the fighting scenes but not Roche’s cruelty which is truly awful.

 

What surprised me: Grace is to give birth to the child of the ruthless, evil pirate who not only raped her, but also tried to kill her, yet she never worries about how she can raise a son that is his spitting image. I can see her having angst over that and then deciding to love the child anyway, but Grace never even has a thought about this. That seemed odd. But overall, it's a good story and pirate romance lovers will be happy.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Georgette Heyer’s BEAUVALLET – Lively Elizabethan Swashbuckler set in England, France and Spain

February is Pirate and Privateer month…all those swashbuckling tales set on the sea. I’m starting with a classic, Beauvallet.

 

Set in 1586 in England, France and (mostly) Spain and the waters off their coasts, this is an early work of the classic author, Georgette Heyer, a swashbuckler with an English aristocrat, Sir Nicholas Beauvallet. “Mad Nicholas” prefers sailing his ship and troubling the Spanish galleons to enjoying the wealth he had gained and the family estate in England.

 

On one of his excursions, Nick captures a Spanish galleon carrying Doña Dominica de Rada y Sylvan, a young maiden returning to Spain with her ailing father. Instantly he is in love with Dominica, who is quite a brat at first, and vows to return her and her father to Spain. But Nick tells Dominica he will reclaim her within a year. She protests but is secretly thrilled. The man to whom her aunt would wed Dominica is loathsome to her.

 

Nick was well loved in England. Queen Elizabeth adored him and his friends included many notables, such as Sir Francis Drake. But to his enemies, he was the "Scourge of Spain".

 

This story is all about the hero and his noble (and quite funny) valet, Joshua. Though Nick is quite full of himself, he is charming in his conceit, and apparently, his conceit is justified.

 

Enjoyable romp with Heyer’s unusual witty banter.


 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

BEST VIKING ROMANCES!

 

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

 

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

 

Blind Allegiance and Blind Mercy by Violetta Rand

Breton Wolf and Ivar the Red  by Victoria Vane

Dawnfire by Lynn Erickson

Dream of Me, Believe in Me and Come Back to Me, trilogy by Josie Litton

Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw

Fires of Winter, Hearts Aflame and Surrender My Love, trilogy by Johanna Lindsey

Forbidden Passion by Theresa Scott

Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, trilogy by Heather Graham

Kept by the Viking by Gina Conkle

Lord of Hawkfell Island, Lord of Raven’s Peak and Lord of Falcon Ridge, trilogy by Catherine Coulter

Lord of the Runes by Sabrina Jarema

Love’s Fury by Violetta Rand

Loveweaver and The Maiden Seer by Tracy Ann Miller

Maidensong by Diana Groe (aka Mia Marlowe)

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle

Northward the Heart by Maureen Kurr

Odin’s Shadow, A Flame Put Out and Oath Breaker, 3-part story by Erin Riley

Raeliksen, Mac Liam and The Temperate Warrior by Renee Vincent (re-edited and re-released as Sunset Fire, Emerald Glory and Souls Reborn)

Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri

Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter

Storm Maiden by Mary Gillgannon

Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

The Bewitched Viking by Sandra Hill

The Enchantment (first published as My Warrior’s Heart) by Betina Krahn

The Norse King’s Daughter by Sandra Hill

The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger

The Valiant Heart, The Defiant Heart and The Captive Heart by Kathleen Kirkwood (aka Anita Gordon)

The Viking by Marti Talbott

The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford

The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight

The Viking Warrior’s Bride by Harper St. George

To Find a Viking Treasure by Gina Conkle

Twin Passions by Miriam Minger

Viking Captive by Emma Merritt

Viking Gold by Nadine Crenshaw

Viking Passion by Flora Speer

Viking Rose by Ashland Price

Viking Sword: The Stranded One by Mairi Norris

 

For stories that include a Viking attack, consider my own Rogue Knight and Rebel Warrior in the Medieval Warriors series

Summer Warrior, the award-winning first in my Clan Donald Saga has Norse pirates!  

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Tracey Ann Miller’s LOVEWEAVER – Viking Weaver of Spells Falls for Saxon Warrior

 

The story begins in Hedeby, Denmark in 895 as Llyrica, a weaver who weaves spells into her beautiful trimming design, disguises herself as her old Aunt Solvieg, an expert weaver and resident “old crone”. Llyrica is discovered by a flesh peddler who would have her for himself. He takes her from her home, along with her brother. They end up in the waters off Wessex, she in the hands of a Saxon warrior named Slayde the StoneHeart, ealdorman of Kent, and her brother (unknowingly) in the hands of their Viking father.


It’s pretty much instant lust on Slayde’s part, no matter they are in freezing water and he is saving her from a shipwreck. But, being the strong “I need no woman” man he is, Slayde ignores his sexual attraction for her and goes about his business. During the day, he berates her in front of his men, accusing her (without reason) of being a whore. But at night he “sleep walks” to her bed where he whispers sweet words of love.

 

Llyrica is determined to reach the Danelaw where her father, Haesten, is a feared warrior. (She has no idea that’s where her brother ended up.)

 

Initially I found the author’s word choices and writing style a bit difficult to wade through, but once I got accustomed to it, I found the story entertaining and wanted to see what happened. Miller has obviously done much research into the Viking culture and London of the time and I really enjoyed the historical detail.

 

Llyrica is a clever heroine who will have Slayde on her terms. Slayde, determined to resist, has not a prayer. Many secondary characters add to the story, making it a rich tapestry. And some exciting scenes will keep your heart pumping. It’s also intriguing with the spells woven into the cloth by the “songweaver”.

 

Viking lovers will enjoy the match between a Saxon loyal to King Alfred and a Viking maiden from Denmark.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Gina Conkle’s TO FIND A VIKING TREASURE – An Exciting Viking Tale!

Set in 1022 in the kingdom of Svea (Sweden), this is the story of warring Viking leaders and a rough yet noble warrior who serves the man who saved his life. Brandr wants to leave Uppsala to start a new life, but his desire to protect the slave, Sestra, keeps him from leaving.

 

Sestra is a thrall who has known only abuse from men who lust after her beauty. But when she tells the Viking leader of a treasure hidden by their enemy, Brandr and she are sent to find it. To Sestra, Brandr is a mysterious figure, a man of strength whose only words are ones meant to tease yet he always treats her with respect.

 

This is a Viking version of lost on a desert isle. Alone and facing the enemy who would be eager to kill them, Brandr and Sestra discover passion between them as they fight to survive. Choices must be made by each as to what is truly important. Brandr is a freeman and Sestra longs to be free. She hopes the treasure will bring her that freedom.

 

Conkle has obviously done considerable research into the Viking life, which enriches the tale. Some exciting scenes will hold your attention and for those who like a spicy romance, Conkle has delivered a romance with many scintillating love scenes.

The Norse series:

 

Norse Jewel

To Find a Viking Treasure

To Steal a Viking Bride

To Heal a Viking Heart



Thursday, January 18, 2024

Sandra Hill’s THE NORSE KING’S DAUGHTER – Fanciful yet based on good research…a Viking Adventure!

This is the story of King Thoval’s (a Norse king) last unmarried daughter, Drifa, and Sidroc Guntersson, a Viking warrior, who needs a wife and a mother for his infant daughter left him when his wife died. Unfortunately, Sidroc never told Drifa of his need for a mother for his babe as he courted her. When she found out, she was less than pleased and bashed him on the head. When he awakes, he learns his daughter has disappeared and fears she is dead. Now, years later, Sidroc and Drifa are reunited in Miklagard where Drifa has come to study flowers. Sidroc is one of an elite guard who is assigned to Drifa. He means to have his revenge.

 

Hill weaves her solid research into her fanciful story, presenting the Vikings’ way of life and the great city of Miklagard (the Viking name for Constantinople) in a realistic manner. Yet it is still a fanciful, often humorous tale. The sex is pretty graphic.

 

Hill will draw you into the characters’ lives. Though I soon realized this was part of a series, it can still be enjoyed as a stand-alone. In fact, Hill has eleven books in her Viking series, all worthy reads and some as much fantasy as historical.

 


 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Victoria Vane’s BRETON WOLF – Excellent Viking Novella Set in 10th Century Brittany


 

Set in 10th century Brittany, this is the story of Adele of Vannes, the daughter of a duke and granddaughter of a king and the Viking who claims her. Adele was bartered at birth in a marriage treaty for the sole purpose of producing a royal heir. When her philandering husband, the duke, is slain by Norse marauders, she marries their chief in order to protect her home and her people.


Valdrik Vargr, “the Norse Wolf”, has dreams of a dynasty and so he uses his might and his shrewdness in statecraft to conquer Brittany and claim Adele’s hand to sire sons from royal blood to solidify his hold.

 

Vane does a wonderful  job of bringing us into the times of the Norsemen who arrived in France (Brittany in this case) not to pillage but to conquer and settle. Vane does her research and it shows. This is the first of three short tales that involve the matches made by Valdrik and his men. A great short read and the trilogy is related.


The Wolves of Brittany Trilogy of Novellas:

Breton Wolfe
Ivar the Red
The Bastard of Brittany

 



Friday, January 5, 2024

Sharon Key Penman’s A KING’S RANSOM – The Rest of Lionheart’s Story…

 

This is a well-researched, well-told story of King Richard I after he went on crusade. Returning to France with the best of his faithful men, he moves to take back what the French king took from him while he was gone. Taken captive by the Holy Roman Emperor in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders, Richard spends fifteen months chained in a dungeon and imprisoned in Germany while his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine moves heaven and earth to raise the exorbitant ransom. And what a woman!

 

I love how Penman adds fiction to the real story to bring it alive for the reader. The characters will draw you into their lives. Richard emerges, as in Lionheart, as a hero with no equal. For the five years remaining to him, he faces betrayals, intrigues, wars, and illness. His marriage never seemed to be what he or his wife might have wanted and she produced no children. But you will see why the courage, compassion, and intelligence of Richard became the stuff of legend.

 

Highly recommended but start with Lionheart.

 


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Betina Krahn’s THE ENCHANTMENT– Simply Wonderful Viking Tale!

January is Viking romance month! One of my favorites is by Betina Krahn. I have come to appreciate Krahn's attention to detail in her well told romances…it's excellence in romance writing. I always know I’m going to find a well woven tale that spends time with character development, and gives me a feel for the culture of the time. This is a Viking romance that takes you into the late Viking period when the Swedish Vikings sailed all the way to Byzantium. It was also a time when the old Asa gods were being replaced by Christianity and the "White Christ." Krahn treats this subject with great care, showing us how the old often combined with the new in this story that begins with belief in myths and ends in very real action.

Since she was a young girl, Aaren, daughter of Serrick, understood she was unusually tall and strong, trained to be a warrior, a battle-maiden, and not a woman of the hearth, because her mother was a Valkyr, a daughter of the Viking gods. She is beautiful with a long, lean body, dark red hair, and golden eyes. Aaren had two beautiful sisters, also daughters of Serrick, and born from another blond Valkyr.

 

Serrick brings his three daughters to the village of Borger, a powerful jarl, and gives them in payment of a tax debt--but with conditions. No man may touch them or wed them until one man can defeat Aaren in sword fighting; then each may be given in marriage. Borger accepts the conditions with his eldest son, Jorund, in mind. Jorund is a huge, handsome Viking, who two years ago tired of battlelust and the "dew of wounds" (blood), so he has no intention of fighting any woman. But after Aaren defeats two of Borger's best warriors, Borger decrees that no man may fight Aaren save Jorund. Aaren wants to end the curse and the condition to her sisters' ability to marry, so she prods and taunts Jorund into fighting her. He resists.

That's the basic storyline, and except for the myth underlying Aaren and her sisters' introduction to the village, which myth Jorund doesn't accept since he is a follower of the White Christ, the rest of the story is pure historical romance. It's an unusual courtship, to be sure, and there is more than one romance in this one.

 

I highly recommend it. It's not a fast-paced light read, however. You need a good rainstorm, a cup of tea and a fireplace to settle in with this one.

NOTE: This was previously released under the title
THE WARRIOR’S HEART


 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Regan's Top 20 Historical Romances

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

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

 

Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas

Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson

The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis)

The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley

Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart

Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson

The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson

Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor

The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen

The Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham

Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

The Wild Rose of Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens

Clandara by Evelyn Anthony

Stormfire by Christine Monson

Princess of Fire by Heather Graham

The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole

Dancing On Coals by Ellen O’Connell

Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw