Friday, May 17, 2019

Kathleen Givens’ KILGANNON – A Very Worthy Heroine in a Great Highland Romance – a Keeper!

After reading On a Highland Shore and its sequel Rivals For The Crown, I became a devoted fan of Givens and her amazing talent for weaving a story from history that sweeps you away.

Kilgannon is a story of the same Highlander family in On a Highland Shore, but ten generations later--in 1712. Set in Scotland and England, it tells the story of Mary Lowell, a pampered debutante, swept up in London's society of parties and entertainment. Mary saw no suitors that appealed to her but then it was expected she'd marry the Campbell. Then Alex MacGannon, the Earl of Kilgannon, shows up at a soiree in London one evening wearing a kilt and Mary is intrigued, captivated.

They called Lord Kilgannon a barbarian, a Scottish chief of clan MacGannon who sailed the seas in his ships. But Mary finds the Scottish lord polished and with a wonderful sense of humor. Alex knows what he wants and he wants Mary Lowell for his wife, to live with him and his two young sons in castle Kilgannon. The Highlands are torn by rebellion, and Mary is drawn into the conflict as another man competes for her love.

Alex is every bit the man his ancestor, Gannon, was and I could not help falling in love with him as he pursued Mary, a very worthy heroine. English, she is a strong woman of character who would leave her own land for his.

Givens' writing is wonderfully descriptive and the feelings between the two characters develop subtly and believably. You are drawn into their world without realizing it.

The sequel, The Wild Rose of Kilgannon, continues story of Alex and Mary as they face England's wrath together. When you can't stop reading, you know you've found a keeper. The two books comprise a rich tale of the 18th century you will want to re-read! Givens is a superb storyteller.

It’s on my Best Scottish Historical Romances list, My Top 20 list and My Favorite Heroes & Heroines list!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Emma Merritt’s LORD OF FIRE - Love in 7th Century Scotland

Emma Merritt wrote some wonderful historical romances. This is one of the few set in the Highlands. It’s the year 625 when Norsemen, Picts and Gaels vied for control of Scotland.

It tells the story of a half-Pict chieftain, Malcolm mac Duncan, whose heart's desire is to unite all of the Highlands. To make peace with the Southerlanders living at the top of Scotland, Malcolm took a bride. But that wife committed suicide, so he wants another from the Southerlanders. And the one he wants--the one he claims--is a beautiful young woman named Jarvia who is educated in the Gaelic tongue and is now the Law Speaker for her people. Malcolm wants an heir; Jarvia wants to save the girl they would have given to Malcolm, so she agrees to wed him.

There's treachery from many camps here and lots of action to keep you reading. Duncan proves a worthy hero and Jarvia his perfect mate. At the end, Merritt leaves some threads loose to come back to in the second book, Lord of Thunder, the story of Norseman Michael Langssonn, Malcolm’s long lost twin. If you are a fan of Merritt, and I am, I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Meggan Connors’ HIGHLAND DECEPTION – A Love Story Set in the Highlands in Between Jacobite Risings

Set in the Highlands in 1725, this is the story of Kenneth Mackay, marked by the English Crown as a traitor for his Jacobite views. Kenneth returns to his home at his twin brother Malcolm’s summons. There he learns his brother, who betrayed him ten years before, is dying and wants Kenneth to assume his identity—to give Kenneth his life back as the clan laird. A slight hitch in the plans is the fact that Malcolm is married.

Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an impoverished English marquess, wonders at the change in her husband. Where once he spurned her for his mistress, now he is attentive and affectionate and sends his mistress packing. Isobel had long ago given up on having a real marriage but now finds she is open to her husband’s change of mind.

When the mistress realizes the man spurning her is not Malcolm, she turns him into the British authorities in Edinburgh who arrest him for his crimes, though the one murder they accuse him of was not his doing but his dead brother’s.

Well written with an intriguing storyline and a few historical characters thrown in for authenticity reflecting good research. I can recommend it. Lovers of Highland romance will find this a good story.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Carmen Caine’s Heather House: Witch of the Moors – Well-Written Story of Scotland at the time of King James’ Witch Hunting

Set in Scotland in 1589, this is the story of Sorcha Cunningham, a girl gifted with the second sight, who is sent by her guardian (a witch if there ever was one) away for her own safety. Sorcha flees to her relative, Margaret Cunningham, who has wed Robert Montgomery, Earl of Eglinton, per the king’s command.

At the center of the story is an old feud between the Montgomery and Cunningham clans that the marriage of Robert and Margaret was intended to end. Alas, it did not. Margaret plots to get rid of her husband.

Robert’s younger brother, Alec Montgomery, free of the demands of the title, is the peacemaker in the family and spends his time having fun. But as the story begins, a mysterious old hag tells Alec he will one day be the earl and the last of his line, but how can that be when he has many brothers?

Sorcha has dreams that foretell coming horrors, but her guardian tells her she must face her destiny, for happiness lies on the other side. Meanwhile, King James begins a witch-hunt and Sorcha’s terrible fate draws ever closer while she’s melting in Alec’s arms.

The story reflects solid research and Caine is meticulous in detail, which put me in the setting. It’s well written, which I so appreciated, however, there are some dark aspects with Sorcha’s dreams providing an evil foreboding through much of the tale.

Alec is charming, falling for Sorcha the first time he sees her, no matter she is a commoner and a maid. His cousin, Taran, is an interesting fellow who adds the brooding Scot aspect to the pair. I must say King James comes over like a dolt, his changeable nature explained away by his fear of the Highland clans. Now that sounded interesting but perhaps it’s coming in a future story.

All in all, it’s a great read if the subject of witchcraft and evil perpetrated on innocent women doesn’t scare you off.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Jayne Castel’s BLOOD FEUD – Intriguing Isle of Sky Love Story set in the 4th Century

Set in the Dark Ages of Scotland on the Isle of Skye, this is the story of warring groups and a peace reluctantly gained by a handfasting. Tea, the daughter of a Pictish chieftain of the Wolf tribe, is forced by her brother to handfast with Galen, chief of the Eagles, a tribe responsible for the death of her parents.

Galen is delighted with his fierce bride, well except that she hates him. She is beautiful and courageous, a warrior. Tea wants nothing to do with the Eagles but the kindness shown her by Galen wears away her hostility.

This is the first book in The Warrior Brothers of Skye series. Well-researched with great descriptions of the isle and the tribes living there in the 4th century, including food. The story brings treachery, betrayal and much angst.

Those who love history in their historical romance and great historical details will enjoy this tale from long ago Scotland. Castel does a great job of drawing the reader into the story and the lives of the characters.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Penelope Williamson’s BELOVED ROGUE - A great 16th century Scottish Romance

This was Penelope Williamson's first romance and while it might not rise to the level of her later ones, I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe it is worthy of your time.

Set in Scotland in 1584, Beloved Rogue is the story of the Scottish-English borderlands where feuds and rivalries went on for hundreds of years. When she is only 14, Alexia Carleton, a high-spirited proud English girl, meets Jamie Maxwell, a Scot whose clan has been the enemy of the Carletons for generations. With one kiss, she is captured by his love forever.

Years later, when she is 19 and betrothed to an English nobleman, Jamie comes to her home, Thirlwell Castle, to rescue one of his brothers. While in the process, he takes her as a hostage, ostensibly to ransom her for his family's sword and gold. He takes her to one of his family's castles and in the weeks that follow, they become lovers and he confesses he loves her. But he can never wed her because she is English and he a Scot and while they share great passion, there is also great mistrust between them. Will he give her back?

I did love this story and particularly the way Williamson brought it all to a close that had me teary eyed. If you’re a Williamson fan, this one is worth your reading even if not as mazing as some of her other ones.

While it's a debut novel, it reflects her attention to detail, a great story with lots of side plots, her wonderful ability to make you feel along with her well-developed characters, and her creation of a lovable hero and heroine as well as endearing secondary characters. The historical setting is accurate as are the place names and geographical features she so well describes.

Friday, May 3, 2019

B.J. Scott’s HIGHLAND QUEST – Hotheaded Hero Finds Love With a Determined Woman

Since he lost the love of his youth to the English, Bryce Fraser is only concerned with serving King Robert Bruce and fighting the English and the Scots that support them. He has no time for love or Fallon, the woman who catches his fancy. He’s not exactly honorable, however. Knowing he won’t marry, he nevertheless takes her virtue. 

Bryce's brothers—and nearly everyone else thinks he harbors a love for the woman. And Fallon wants only one man. Bryce. And she will make some poor decisions in pursuing him that will cost others their lives.

If you can handle all that, it’s an exciting, well-written tale of the days before Robert had the throne secured. Fans of Scottish historical romance will love it. This is book 2 in the Fraser Brothers trilogy, so there is more for you to enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Paula Quinn’s HEART OF ASHES – Enemies to Lovers Between a Scot and an Englishwoman in the time of Robert the Bruce

May is the month in which I review Scottish Historical Romances. I’m beginning with one by my fellow author and friend, Paula Quinn.

The story begins in Scotland in 1314 as the Scots are defeating the English at Bannockburn. Cainnech (Cain) MacPherson hates the English for their raid on his village when he was a boy, the day they killed his family and stole his brothers. They took everything including him and brought him up as an English warrior. But those days are now over and Cain serves Robert the Bruce.

When he raids a small castle in Northumberland, he faces a bold Norman lass who will wants him dead at any cost. Aleysia d’Argentan has been planning for four years how she alone will defeat the Scots with traps in the forest, poisoning the grain and wine and daggers hidden all over the castle. However, she did not anticipate Cain’s intelligence or his kindness to her.

For much of the book Aleysia and Cain battled each other but she could not hold out when her affection and respect for him grew. He protected her identity from his men as the women who had killed nine of his men and so his men came to respect her, unaware the castle was hers.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to some loveable characters and a few twists that surprise. When Robert the Bruce shows up, things get really interesting. And the ending is compelling. Great descriptions and well written. Lovers of medieval Scottish historicals will love it.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Shirl Henke’s CAPTURE THE SUN – Superb Western Classic with a Wonderful Half Cheyenne Hero!

Shirl Henke serves up richly detailed Western romances that will keep you up late at night, I promise. This is another winning tale of hers from the old West with an intricate plot reflecting thorough research. The story captivated me from the beginning; I couldn’t put it down.

First published in 1988, and set in Montana in the late 1800s, Capture the Sun was unique because it involved a half-breed Cheyenne hero who had been well educated in the finest Eastern schools. Hawk Sinclair straddled two worlds, not feeling at home in either, until he finds his destiny in the arms of a beauty from St. Louis he called Firehair.

Carrie Patterson was raised in St. Louis and had loving parents until they died and she was forced to live with her aunt and uncle and treated more like a servant. Her aunt resented her beauty for her daughters paled in comparison. When Carrie turns 18, her aunt buys Carrie’s fiancé for one of the plain daughters and Carrie is forced to marry the aunt’s cousin, a cruel old rancher named Noah Sinclair. He takes her to his ranch in Montana, the Circle S, where she learns he’s had two wives before her, including his first who was a beautiful Cheyenne girl who gave him his only son, Hawk Sinclair, an educated half breed who will never inherit the ranch if Carrie gives him a white heir. Carrie comes to hate Noah even as she is falling in love with his son, Hawk.

My first reaction to the story was one of revulsion as the beautiful young heroine, Carrie Patterson, was forced into marrying the despicable Noah Sinclair. Noah’s frequent, mechanical and brutal exercise of his “marital rights” made me cringe. He was the wrong man for the right woman; he took her innocence and I hated him for it. Carrie was a bit disappointing at first as she resigned herself to the role of broodmare. But as she becomes more familiar with life on the Montana frontier, she gains strength and the respect of all around her. 

Henke’s portrayal of ranch life and the challenges of the Cheyenne as the white man encroached onto their way of life are vividly detailed. Her dialog is rich, capturing the personalities of her characters, even their speech, which varies from the wise Cheyenne chief, to the old Texas cowhand, to the self-righteous citizens who were so quick to judge. I highly recommend this one! It’s the first in the Cheyenne trilogy:

Capture the Sun
The Endless Sky

Friday, April 26, 2019

How We Got to Where We Are Today: Modern Historical Romance Over the Last Several Decades, a Recommended Reading List for the Uninitiated

Sometimes when I talk to fellow readers of historical romance, or even authors, and I mention a name from the past, an author who helped shape the genre, like Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, I get a blank stare in return. It occurred to me that as lovers of a genre it might be helpful to read some of the classics to see where we’ve come from and to enjoy the greats who have contributed so much to the craft.

I’m not going as far back as Ivanhoe or Jane Eyre. Except for four novels of note in earlier decades, I’m starting in the 1970s when the bedroom door was flung open never to close again. And while I may not have included your favorite author, by reading the romances on this list, you’ll have a good idea of our beginnings and what so many wonderful authors have done for the genre. Think of it as a Recommended Reading List for the Uninitiated in modern historical romance.

So, here’s the list of those I recommend, a sampling meant to give you a picture of how the genre has developed. Some may require you to shop online for a used book though many are available as ebooks. Most are novels I’ve rated 5 stars, so I promise you won’t be bored. 

Included because of their significance… and to show you what was out there early

·               The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (1950)
·               Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas (1954)
·               Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden (1960)
·               Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis (1965)

The 1970s: The Pioneering Years

·               The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972)
·               The Wicked Marquis by Barbara Cartland (1973)
·               Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers (1974)
·               Love’s Tender Fury by Jennifer Wilde (aka Tom Huff) (1976)
·               Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain (1977)
·               Caroline by Cynthia Wright (1977)
·               Love’s Wild Desire by Jennifer Blake (1977)
·               The Kadin by Bertrice Small (1978)
·               A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey (1978)
·               Bonds of Love by Lisa Gregory (1978)

The 1980s: The Explosive Years

·               Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee (1980)
·               Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small (1981)
·               Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter (1982)
·               The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys (1984)
·               Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne (1984)
·               Stormfire by Christine Monson (1984)
·               The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis) (1984)
·               Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught (1985)
·               The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham (1986)
·               Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw (1987)
·               The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley (1988)
·               Capture the Sun by Shirl Henke (1988)
·               Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin (1988) Re-published as Black Falcon’s Lady
·               Sweet Savage Eden by Heather Graham (1989)
·               Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart (1989)

The 1990s: The Developing Years

·               Dark Fires by Brenda Joyce (1991)
·               The Wind Dancer by Irish Johansen (1991)
·               Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (1992)
·               Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
·               Untamed by Elizabeth Lowell (1993)
·               Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) (1994)
·               Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson (1996)
·               The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson (1997)
·               Night in Eden by Candice Proctor (1997)
·               Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens (1999)

The 2000s: The “Standing On The Shoulders of Giants” Years

·               By Possession by Madeline Hunter (2000)
·               The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole (2003)
·               Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (2007)
·               Broken Wing by Judith James (2008)
·               My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne (2008)
·               The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (2008)
·               Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell (2010)
·               Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner (2011)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Bertrice Small’s A MOMENT IN TIME – Unusual Medieval Historical Romance Even for Small that is also a Fantasy

A fantasy as well as a historical romance set in 11th century Wales and England, this is the story of Wynne of Gwernach who, because of a past life, does not believe in love. She loves her family (her brother and sister) and her family estate in Wales. As she is about to become betrothed to a demanding suitor, Madoc of Powys enters her life, claiming they have been betrothed since she was a babe. What she doesn’t know is that Wynne and Madoc were lovers in another life where she was the Princess of the Fair Folk who fell in love with a mortal who ultimately failed her miserably.

Bertrice Small’s historical romances often lead the reader down a winding path with many trails leading away from the main love story. This is one of those. After having wed Madoc, Wynne is taken captive by Madoc’s evil brother and sold into slavery in England. There, Wynne leads another life away from Madoc. (Here’s where the story becomes a bodice ripper.)

The story gets off to a slower start than one might like but there are enough historical details to let you know the story set in a true historical time. Still, there are flights of fantasy (the hero, Madoc, can change his shape into a raven) that let you know this is something of a fairy tale. I prefer Small’s deeper historicals like the Border Lord series.

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