Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Elizabeth English’s THE BORDER BRIDE – Treachery, Betrayal and Love in 14th century Scotland

Set in 1375, mostly in Scotland, this is the story of Alyson Bowden, bastard half-sister to Lady Maude Darnley of the English Darleys. Alyson, a maid in the Darnley household, is forced by her father, to take her half-sister’s identity in order to satisfy a promise he made. The promise was to their enemies, the Kirallens—to give “his daughter” to them in marriage to end their long cross-border feud. He would never give them Maude, the daughter he values, but he will give them Alyson, who agrees only to save her young brother whose life Darnley has threatened.


I liked this story from the beginning, not only the concept, but the way the author drew me into Alyson’s predicament. The man she was forced to wed, Jemmy Kirallen, the disfavored son of his father, now the heir, believed her to be the haughty Maude, but he wondered at times when “Maude” would become more intelligent, inquisitive and passionate in his arms.


Alyson holds Jemmy at bay, believing she will soon be free and can return to her brother. And Jemmy believes he will soon be free of her. But he wants to leave her with child before he returns to his life at sea.


Alyson quickly comes to love her new husband (and given what a great guy he is, one can see why!) However, she fears telling him the truth—that Darnley plans an attack on the Kirallens—knowing Darnley has threatened the life of her young brother.


There isn’t much history in this story but there is certainly enough story to hold your interest, with many twists and turns, including a foster brother, the Kirallen ghost who haunts the keep and who was stabbed in the back by Darnley, and some endearing children.


It’s a picture of life in the Borderlands, of English and Scots warring for many years. And it’s the story of love that can heal many hurts. Lovers of Scottish historical romance will find depth here and enough story to keep them turning pages.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Aleen Malcolm’s CHILDREN OF THE MIST – Suspenseful Love Story of a Campbell and a MacGregor

This is not my first by Malcolm and there is a reason. She writes great stories.

Set in France and Scotland in 1764, this is the story of Kat MacGregor, daughter of the banished MacGregor clan who promised her dying mother she would care for her siblings, both older than Kat. For five years she has fought to protect her ailing younger brother and her vulnerable older sister, knowing that if their identity as MacGregors is discovered once they return to Scotland, they could die.

Sir Darach Campbell, Lord of Strathrannoch and Glengrian, knows Kat holds the secret to his missing brother, Riach, and so intends to hold the “ragged chit” close. In front of witnesses, he announces he and Kat are wed. In Scotland, that constituted a valid marriage. Once he decided to make her his wife, Darach begins to acknowledge the fascination he had for her from the first moment he looked into her green eyes five years before in France.


So begins a tug of war as Kat tries to escape to get back to her brother and sister and Darach fearlessly hangs on, all the while trying to solve the mystery behind his wee bride and his missing brother.


I loved both the hero and the heroine. Kat is young but fearless, clever and undaunted by the young Campbell lord. Darach is tenacious yet tender with Kat (well, most of the time). While there is not much history, you can tell Malcolm has done her research with the Gaelic sprinkled throughout and the fear that was real for any MacGregor.


Malcolm does a superb job of keeping us in suspense and turning pages. It’s a great read and highly recommended for readers who love deeper Scottish historicals, which I do. Malcolm is also the author of The Taming, book 1 in the Cameron trilogy, which I also recommend. I consider them all “keepers”.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Elizabeth Chadwick’s IRISH PRINCESS – Ireland in the 12th Century with the Coming of the Normans and an Alliance that Led to Love

Aoife MacMurchada is just 14 years old when her father Diarmit, King of Leinster, is brutally deposed, and her family is forced to flee Southern Ireland into England where they seek help from King Henry II. Henry takes a keen interest in the lovely young Aoife with the voice of an angel when she sings. But she is wise enough not to fall into his clutches. Aoife’s father’s need for a strong alliance to win back his lands leads him to Richard de Clare, lord of Striguil, a man looking for new lands and stature. Marrying the daughter of the King of Leinster will bring him what he needs.

Diarmit promises Richard wealth, lands, and Aoife's hand in return for his military aid. For her part, Aoife will do her duty for the father she loves. An alliance formed of necessity will change Ireland’s future forever and lead to love for Aoife as she becomes Richard’s admired countess.


A well-written historical that sheds light on the Normans coming to Ireland and the role of the de Clare-MacMurchada alliance. I loved the rich historical detail, the Irish spirit preserved in the characters, the classic picture of King Henry as a letch, albeit with a gracious demeanor, and the love story between Richard and Aoife.


Another great read from Chadwick!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Madeline Hunter’s LORD OF A THOUSAND NIGHTS – Love and Adventure in the 14th century on the Scottish Border

Set on the Scottish border in 1357, this is the story of an English knight, Ian of Guilford, dubbed “Lord of a Thousand Nights” for his prowess with women, and Lady Reyna Graham, a widow who is desperate to save her people and her home, Black Lyne Keep, from Ian’s assault. One night, she sneaks out and into his tent, posing as a prostitute. She thinks to kill him, however, Ian knows women and he knows this one is not an experienced woman.


Following her retreat back into the keep, he finds the passage that allows his men to take the keep without a siege. Once captured, she and her people are under his control. There is a fair amount of suspense, witty banter, and sex, as well as some good secondary characters to keep you entertained.


Ian turns out to be nobler that one might think initially. And Reyna is a well-loved noble heroine of good intentions gone awry. There’s mystery in their backgrounds and Hunter does a great job of revealing those at the end.


This is the last of Hunter’s 14th Century London Medieval series and some of the couples in the other stories are characters in this one. All are highly recommended:


By Possession

By Design

Stealing Heaven

By Arrangement

The Protector

Lord of a Thousand Nights

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Collette Cameron’s TO LOVE A HIGHLAND ROGUE – Charming Story of a Match Made by the King

Set in the Highlands in 1720, this is the story of Logan Rutherford, Laird of Lockelieth Keep, who was betrothed when he was six to Mayra Findlay, then a baby. They meet again when she is eighteen. He has decided to pose as his lookalike cousin, Coburn Wallace, to get a look at his soon-to-be bride. At issue is her dowry, half of which Logan’s father squandered before he died and the other half which Logan needs to save his lands.


Mayra thinks her absent betrothed is uncaring—he never answers her letters—and so she is determined end it. Besides, she needs the remaining half of her dowry to save her family’s home. But she needs Logan’s help and the king’s permission. When she meets the handsome Coburn Wallace (never realizing he is Logan), she has another reason—she has fallen in love.


This is #1 in the Heart of a Scot series and it’s a good start, a witty story well told of Logan and Mayra’s slide into love. Cameron tosses in some unusual words and phrases that will make you smile and some Scottish brogue that gives the story an authentic feel. Well done!


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Elizabeth Stuart’s HEARTSTORM – A Keeper of a Love Story set in Scotland!

Set in late 17th century Scotland during the reign of King James II, it tells the story of Anne Randall, the beautiful daughter of Robert Randall, the evil earl of Glenkennon and representative of King James’ government in Scotland. Randall has come to the Highlands to subdue the clans, and particularly Sir Francis MacLean, laird of the MacLeans. When Randall uses treachery to imprison friends of the MacLean, the Scottish laird captures Randall's daughter to hold her for exchange of the prisoners.


Anne was on her way from England to join her father upon the death of her mother, who was a MacDonnell, allies of the MacLeans. But Francis sweeps Anne away to his home, Camereigh Castle, on the coast of Western Scotland, where they find themselves drawn to each other and Anne experiences the joy of a warm family.

This is superb historical romance and storytelling at its best. Stuart captivates from the first page as she weaves an intriguing tale of love and treachery in the Highlands. The rich historic details show considerable research. The dialog draws you in and the characters are well drawn. The hero is drool-worthy.


I promise, it will keep you turning pages.

As far as I can tell, Stuart only wrote five books before setting aside her writing career to raise her family. But those she has given us are worth holding dear.


Here they are:

Reckless Angel (1988, under the pen name Elizabeth Awbrey)
Heartstorm (1989)
Where Love Dwells (1990, RITA award winner for Best Historical, 1991)
Without Honor (1994)
Bride of the Lion (1995)


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Dorothy Dunnett’s KING HEREAFTER – A Wonderful Portrayal of MacBeth, King of Scots, His Times and the Woman He Loved

May is Scottish Historical Romance month on the blog and I’m beginning with a deep one. After having read Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles (which I highly recommend), I couldn’t wait to read this book before moving on to her House of Niccolo series. She is such a good storyteller, and there are many twists and turns and insightful dips into history. (You have to love history, however, and tolerate some vague references, as there are many names and many historical figures.)

Thanks to Shakespeare, the historical MacBeth, King of Scots has been much maligned as a bad actor. From my research for my novel The Refuge, set in 11th century Scotland, I knew Shakespeare got it wrong. In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett brings us into the wild, half-pagan country of Scotland in those early days.


MacBeth begins as an ungainly young Earl Thorfinn with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue. He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is MacBeth. (Dunnett equates the historical MacBeth with Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney, whose sons, Paul and Erlend ruled jointly for many years after their father’s death.)


Dunnett shows us MacBeth’s transformation from an angry, fatherless boy who refuses to accept his meager share of Orkney to an accomplished warrior and diplomat who wisely joins with King Canute and Queen Emma to become a respected leader of men.


His wife, Groa (who is made the same woman as the historical Ingibiorg Finnsdottir, wife of Earl Thorfin of Orkney), is a wonderful character who you will come to love. With the people of Alba and Groa behind him, Thorfinn becomes King of Scots. His heart is still in Orkney but he has a new concern for Alba, even going to Rome to see the Pope about clerics for Alba.


This is very much a love story, a romance even though rich in history. The ending is bittersweet and very well done. I felt rather melancholy after reading the last page.


If you would like to experience the court of King Malcolm III, the King of Scots who followed MacBeth, consider my novel, The Refuge, winner of the Illumination Gold Medal Award. See it on my website HERE.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Johanna Lindsey’s LOVE ONLY ONCE - The First of the Rogues and a Good Beginning to the Malory Saga

In this first in the Malory series, we meet Lord Edward and Lady Charlotte Malory and the whole family of brothers and uncles and their beautiful, much-loved cousin, Regina Ashton. Reggie knows that at 19, it's time for her to marry, and though she has many suitors and dozens of offers, none of her uncles can agree on a man. So, she lingers on the vine, bored with the whole social scene.


When Viscount Nicholas Eden, a rake who seduces even innocents, kidnaps her in a case of mistaken identity, Reggie doesn't resist when her uncles insist Nick must marry her because he has ruined her. Nicholas Eden will marry no woman even though he lusts after Reggie. So, forced into an engagement, he seduces her and then tries to get her to break their engagement. What a cad! But she won't do it, no matter how bad he treats her. She wants him and she has a reason to marry.

In real life, a philanderer like Nick would never be faithful after marriage. A perfect example is Richard Burton, who though he loved Elizabeth Taylor passionately every day of his life after he met her, couldn't be faithful. (It caused their two divorces.) I was reminded of them because Lindsey's description of Reggie is a young Elizabeth Taylor. But ah...this is romance, so the rogues and philanderers can reform and become faithful husbands!

This is no sweeping saga, nor any great story of sweeping passion, and yet, it’s an entertaining read and a good beginning to the popular Malory series.

Here's the series:

Love Only Once (Reggie and Nick)

Tender Rebel (Roslyn and Anthony)
Gentle Rogue (James and Georgina)
The Magic of You (Amy and Warren)
Say You Love Me (Kelsey and Derek)
The Present: The Malory Holiday Novel
A Loving Scoundrel (Danny and Jeremy, James' son)
Captive of My Desires (Gabrielle and Drew)
No Choice But Seduction (Boyd and Katey)
That Perfect Someone (Richard and Julia)


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Best Bodice Ripper Historical Romances


This is a long “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 of more recent vintage. 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 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

Monday, April 25, 2022

Shirlee Busbee’s LADY VIXEN: A Classic Privateer Love Story!

 I could not put this one down and highly recommend it. It's on both my Best Pirate and Privateer Romances List and my Best American Patriotic Romances list. Oh yes, it’s also a bodice ripper and a keeper.


Set in England during the years 1808-1814, this is one of those rare and wonderful love stories that sweeps you away to another time and place where you are caught up in the lives of people whose actions will affect not only their own and others' lives but America and England during the War of 1812. Deception and treachery born years ago lead to revenge and then to heartache. Busbee uses real characters, such as the pirate Jean Lafitte, to bring realism to her story as she seamlessly weaves history into a compelling tale. It's what I call a "dense" historical: one where the writing is so complex and so tight you're getting double the story you'd expect in the 538 pages.


Young Nicole Ashford led an idyllic life in Surrey with her wealthy parents and her twin brother until a boating accident one summer took them from her. Made the ward of an uncaring and barely related aunt and uncle who only want her fortune, and learning of their plans to marry her off to their ne'er-do-well son, at 13 Nicole dons the disguise of a young boy and runs away to sea as the cabin boy for Captain Saber, an American privateer.


For 5 years, Nicole sails with him as a boy and Saber pays her little attention. When she is 18, Saber observes her swimming naked on a tropical beach and decides he wants her for his mistress. He bides his time and when Nicole and a seaman (who is really a British spy) decide to destroy English codebooks that Saber has captured, the two are caught.


Using the life of the English seaman as a bargaining chip, Saber forces Nicole to become his mistress, until the American, on a mission to spy for his new country, decides to sail home and resume his identity as Christopher Saxon, grandson of a baron.


And so begins a complex, worthy tale of adventure, rich in history (both England's and America's) and a love that could not be denied.


Should you want to read more, here is the whole Louisiana Series (stand alones but each with a connection to Louisiana and with some overlapping characters).


·               Gypsy Lady

·               Lady Vixen

·               While Passion Sleeps

·               Deceive Not My Heart

·               The Tiger Lily

·               Midnight Masquerade

·               Whisper to Me of Love

·               Each Time We Love