Friday, January 17, 2020

Best Viking Romances!


Every now and then I love a good Viking Romance. Not fantasy, not paranormal, just straight up historical romance 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 Norsemen 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’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

And for stories that include a Viking attack, consider my own Rogue Knight and Rebel Warrior in the Medieval Warriors series. See them Here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

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 “sleepwalks” 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.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Catherine Coulter’s SEASON OF THE SUN – Superb Tale of the Norsemen

A well-told Viking tale set in the Danelaw (Danish-ruled territory of England) and Norway in the late 9th century. Like others of Coulter’s, she doesn’t hold back when it comes to the violence of the times nor the cruelty inflicted on a worthy heroine by a bold alpha male who has his information wrong. I love that about her writing, but some who are looking for a softer story might not. If you can get past that (and I did), the story will hold your attention and I highly recommend it. Coulter’s portrayal of loss and grief were, in my opinion, nothing short of brilliant.

It tells the story of Magnus Haraldsson, a jarl from Norway and a merchant, who on a trip to York, spots the woman he wants for his wife, beautiful Irish Zarabeth (I pictured a young Maureen O’Hara). He introduces himself to her, basically telling her she will wed him. He’s direct about his accomplishments and knows when he kisses her she finds him attractive. Innocent Zarabeth will have the Viking if he’ll take her young deaf half sister, Lotti, which he will. But her evil stepfather, Olav the Vain, who wants her as his own wife, forces her to reject the Viking threatening to kill Lotti who he loathes.

Zarabeth rejects the Viking and he sails away, bitter at her action. Olav weds her, but never beds her due to his poisoning by his son’s greedy wife. Zarabeth is framed for Olaf’s murder and at her trial, Magnus arrives to persuade the court to make Zarabeth his slave instead of killing her. Thus it is that Zarabeth sails for Norway with Magnus, but as his slave, not his wife.

Talk about the perils of Pauline! This heroine had her troubles in spades. Both she and the hero at times seemed a bit dense. Initially, she failed to trust Magnus to help her and he believed the lie she did not want him. But each has courage that is compelling. The whole time I was reading her misadventures, I kept thinking that this is one hero who is going to have to grovel big time in the end. And I was not disappointed. Neither will you be. Both Zarabeth and Magnus will suffer before they find happiness.

I thought Coulter did a superb job in this well-researched tale of the Norsemen. It’s exciting, fast-paced, detailed and well written. For Viking romance lovers, it is not one to be missed. A keeper!

Coulter’s Viking Series:

Season of The Sun
Lord of Hawkfell Island
Lord of Raven’s Peak
Lord of Falcon Ridge

Monday, January 6, 2020

Gina Conkle’s KEPT BY THE VIKING – Exciting, Authentic Viking Love Story

Set in the 10th century in Normandy, this is the story of Rurik, a leader of the “Forgotten Sons” band of Vikings. Successful in raiding, he now wants land and a home. When William Longsword offers him land in Normandy and a Viking wife, Rurik leads his men there to take advantage of the offer. The Parisian maid he rescues intrigues him but he won’t be dissuaded from his path.

Safira, a Hebrew, is not the thrall she appeared to be. Taken from her home in Paris and sold north, she is clever and full of secrets she won’t reveal, even to Rurik, the Viking who rescues her and to whom she is attracted. Several times she saves Rurik and helps him gain the favor of monks and Jarl Longsword. He comes to admire her and value her opinion.

Conkle has built a complex 10th century world that will serve well in this series that will bring to life the stories of the Forgotten Sons, a band of lesser Vikings who are bonded to each other with a strong loyalty. I love that her story is based on solid research with insight into the era. It has an authentic feel and the characters are richly developed. Lots of action scenes keep up the excitement as Rurik and Safira find their love growing.

If you love Viking stories, you will love this well-written tale!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Emma Merritt’s VIKING CAPTIVE – Engaging though sometimes Unlikely Viking Tale

Though no date is given, this story is likely set in the early 11th century when the Norse made voyages to the new world (the author’s note seemed to confirm this).

Kelda, Viking woman of the Norse and adopted daughter of Thoruald, one of their jarls, leads a mission to the new world to find her chief’s child, born nearly thirty years ago to an Iroquois woman Thoruald married and left behind when he sailed for home. (A half Norse boy, recently taken by the Vikings in a raid upon the new world, wears an armband Thoruald gave his Indian wife and the Norse jarl believes the boy is his grandson, hence Kelda’s mission.) Upon their arrival, Kelda and her warriors are seized by the Iroquois who want vengeance for the last Viking raid two years ago.

Thoruald’s son, now Chief Brander of the Iroquois, wants nothing to do with his Nordic father or the Norsemen who killed his Iroquois wife and daughters before stealing his young son, but he will take the Viking woman Kelda as his slave for vengeance.

Merritt portrayed well the two cultures warring within Brander causing him great angst even as his Iroquois mother pleaded for him to embrace who he was. The heroine, however, was somewhat confusing. She could be smart and brave one minute and turn to mush the next.

Effectively raped by her captor (a forced seduction), our Viking heroine nevertheless decides Brander has captured her heart. While Kelda occasionally gets angry, those incidents seemed like minor fits compared to her overwhelming physical attraction for Brander. Still, she manages to hatch a plot that will bring all her warriors and Brander back to Norway.

Merritt has obviously done considerable research into the Viking way of life and did a great job of showing us the culture and travel on a Viking dragon ship. And the story was intriguing…a Viking encounter with the Iroquois Indians of the new world. All that was to the good.

Despite a few negatives, I found the story engaging, and for fans of Merritt, the detractions may be insignificant. I am a fan of her work and she can certainly tell a good story.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Mary Gillgannon’s STORM MAIDEN – Entertaining Viking Tale with an Irish Heroine

It’s Viking month on Historical Romance Review! So, here’s one to read.

First published in 1997, and re-released by the author in 2011, this is a Viking story with an Irish heroine. It begins in Ireland in 805 A.D., but with a Viking raid, moves to the land of the Norsemen where Gillgannon puts you in the middle of the Viking culture.

Fiona of Dunsheana, daughter of an Irish chieftain, faced a marriage she didn’t want, one arranged by her father. Being a clever girl, she conceived of a bizarre plan to avoid the marriage by giving herself to a Viking prisoner, Dag Thorsson, which would render her unworthy. Though she goes to Dag and sheds her clothes, he believes she’s one of the fairies he’s heard about and is too injured to do anything anyway. Taking pity on him, Fiona tends his wounds. He recovers—just in time for a Viking raid by his brother where Fiona is taken captive.

Fiona is allowed to live because she saved Dag’s life. Immersed in the Vikings’ culture, she is exposed to a language she does not speak and is dependent upon Dag’s protection. Amazingly, Dag does not take Fiona to his bed, at least not until it’s her idea. Fiona has her challenges. She is mistrusted by the Norse for her understanding of herbs and her modern views that women should be able to control when they have children. Like many Norsemen, when the woman he is coming to care for is shunned by his people, Dag begins to wonder if his future might lie in Ireland.

The pace of the story may seem a bit leisurely, but I appreciated Gillgannon’s research into Viking life reflected in the details of her story, the long houses, the clothing, the food. You get a picture of what it was like to live as a Norseman. Fiona is a strong heroine who continues to see herself as the Irish princess even though she is now a slave. She can also be foolish. Dag seems the understanding male with a soft side for both animals and women, especially Fiona. Some might find him a bit modern in his views, especially for a Viking, but there had to be such men even among the Norsemen at the time.

Gillgannon has included a poem that is delightful. Here are some of the first lines:

My Viking
He says he’s Irish
But I look into those eyes
Blue as the North Sea
And I know he’s an immigrant
Like all the rest

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hogmanay!


Today (or, well, tonight) is New Year’s Eve. The Scots’ word for the last day of the year is  Hogmanay. It is normally the start of a celebration that lasts through the night until the morning of New Year’s Day or, in some cases, January 2nd, a Scottish Bank Holiday.

There are many customs associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of “first-footing”, which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder.

The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot.

Experience Hogmanay in A Secret Scottish Christmas! On Amazon.



 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Anita Mills’ LADY OF FIRE – A Keeper with a Great Heroine!

For medieval romance lovers, this one should be on your keeper shelf. I loved it, and though it was my first by Mills, it was not my last.

Set in 11th Century Normandy and England, this is the story of Eleanor of Nantes, daughter of a Norman count. She is young and innocent, but oh so courageous and spirited. When William I first encounters her defending her bastard half-brother, Roger FitzGilbert, the king is taken with her and would betroth her to his own son, Henry. But fate takes a harsh turn upon her mother’s death and 12-year-old Eleanor is sent to a convent to stay until she is 19. And another would swear to have her, rich, powerful and cruel Robert of Belesme. Her heart, however, belongs to Roger, who unknown to her, is not her brother at all.

Eleanor is a heroine to admire, consistent in her strength, intelligence and nobility of character. Roger is the kind of knight every woman longs for. He sees all Eleanor’s faults and loves her passionately, proudly, notwithstanding. Robert of Belesme, the villain who is obsessed with Eleanor, is terrible and cruel yet also strangely sympathetic. The story is rich in historical details with an intricately woven plot, fast-moving dialog and action. It’s a page-turner and so well written. I recommend it!


The Fire Series:

Lady of Fire
Fire and Steel
Hearts of Fire
The Fire and The Fury
Winter Roses

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Favorite Heroes & Heroines!


It’s that time of year when I share my favorite heroes and heroines from the novels I have rated 5-stars. Noble men who overcome tortured pasts, flaws and the odds against them to pursue love and heroines who persist against great obstacles to be with the man to whom they would give their heart—strong, intelligent women of character. Every one a worthy hero and heroine. The best are set deep in history.

Here are my favorites, my Christmas gift to you! This just might be your next year’s reading list!

Heroes

Garr from THE UNVEILING, by Tamara Leigh
Christopher from A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Houston from TEXAS DESTINY by Lorraine Heath
Ruark from SHANA by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Beaumaris from ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer
Summerton from SUMMERTON by Becca St. John
Jacob from THE CALLING OF THE CLAN by Parris Afton Bonds
Night Hawk from NIGHT FLAME by Catherine Hart
Jamie from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham
Thomas from HOME BY MORNING by Kaki Warner
Jason from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis
Alasdair (“Dair”) from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson
Brigham from REBELLION by Nora Roberts
Bret from WITHOUT WORDS by Ellen O’Connell
Ethan from MOOD INDIGO by Parris Afton Bonds
Sean from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson
Domenico from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Felipe Tristan from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Fulke from THE OUTLAW KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick
Roger from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills
Alex from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas
Tade from BLACK FALCON’S LADY by Kimberly Cates (formerly NIGHTWYLDE by Kimberleigh Caitlin)
Devon from THE WINDFLOWER by Laura London
Gabriel from BROKEN WING by Judith James
Gannon from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens
Alex from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens
Cord from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell
Anthony from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter
Trevor from LIONS AND LACE by Meagan McKinney
Simon from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
Ethan from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole
Derek from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole
Rory from BROKEN VOWS by Shirl Henke
Hawk from CAPTURE THE SUN by Shirl Henke
Simon from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley
Shane from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley
Christian from DECEPTIVE HEART by Maureen Kurr
Drake from PIRATE’S ANGEL by Marsha Bauer
Adrian from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne
Cougar from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw
Derek from INNOCENT FIRE by Brenda Joyce
Johnny from THE OUTSIDER by Penelope Williamson
Julian from THE DUKE OF SHADOWS by Meredith Duran
Wolf from LOVE, CHERISH ME by Rebecca Brandewyne
Jesse from ONE WORE BLUE by Heather Graham
Zack from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson
Shay from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson
McCady from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson
Jamie from OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon
Brandon from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Callum from LAIRD OF THE MIST by Paula Quinn
Lucas from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor
Daegan from RAELIKSEN by Renee Vincent
Roc from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham
Francis from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart
Olaf from GOLDER SURRENDER by Heather Graham

Heroines

Annyn from THE UNVEILING, by Tamara Leigh
Amelia from TEXAS DESTINY by Lorraine Heath
Arabella from ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer
Venetia from VENETIA by Georgette Heyer
Caroline from SUMMERTON by Becca St. John
Catriona from THE CALLING OF THE CLAN by Parris Afton Bonds
Sarah (Flame) from NIGHT FLAME by Catherine Hart
Jassy from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham
Anna from TOUCH OF LACE by Elizabeth DeLancey
Chess from FROM FIELDS OF GOLD by Alexandra Ripley
Tess from THE BLACK ROSE by Christina Skye
Katherine from CLANDARA by Evelyn Anthony
Cat from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson
Anne from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart
Margaret from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens
Mary from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis
Miranda from ONCE MORE MIRANDA by Jennifer Wilde
Oriana from ORIANA by Valerie Vayle
Serena from REBELLION by Nora Roberts
Briar from SLEEP IN THE WOODS by Dorothy Eden
Lysistrata from RANGOON by Christine Monson
Catherine from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson
Juana from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Felicia from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Lissa from WHEN ANGELS FALL by Meagan McKinney
Jamelyn from SILK AND STEEL by Cordia Byers
Eleanor from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills
Elspeth from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas
Sarah from BROKEN WING by Judith James
Fallon from PRINCESS OF FIRE by Heather Graham
Mary from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens
Katherine from DANCING ON COALS by Ellen O’Connell
Anne from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell
Kayleigh from MY WICKED ENCHANTRESS by Meagan McKinney
Cassie from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter
Isabeau from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
Maddy from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole
Nicole from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole
Darcy from BEYOND THE CLIFFS OF KERRY by Amanda Hughes
Lauren from THE PRIDE OF THE KING by Amanda Hughes
Scarlett from SCARLETT by Alexandra Ripley
Eleanor from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley
Sara from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley
Summer from THE PIRATE AND THE PAGAN by Virginia Henley
Justine from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne
Flame from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw
Adair from A DANGEROUS LOVE by Bertrice Small
Clementine from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson
Emma from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson
Jessalyn from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson
Heather from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Shanna from SHANNA by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Aislinn from THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Jessie from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor
Whitney from THE PARADISE BARGAIN by Betina Krahn
Skye from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham
Katherine from THE GAME by Brenda Joyce
Kat from CHILDREN OF THE MIST by Aleen Malcolm
Erin from GOLDEN SURRENDER by Heather Graham
Amelia from THE VISCOUNT’S CHRISTMAS TEMPTATION by Erica Ridley

Monday, December 23, 2019

Heather Graham’s GOLDEN SURRENDER – Thrilling 1st in a Great Viking Trilogy!

This is the first in Graham's Viking trilogy (Golden Surrender, The Viking's Woman and Lord of the Wolves). Set in 9th century Ireland (Eire), England and the north coast of France, these are the stories of Prince Olaf of Norway, the first Lord of the Wolves, his bride, Princess Erin, daughter of the Irish High King, the Ard-Righ of Tara, and their descendants.

I'll warn you, the men are strong-willed, arrogant and domineering—Vikings—even if the last two are half Irish. Who wants a gentleman Viking anyway? Their loves are independent, stubborn and courageous women who can fight with the best of the men and have no intention of being dominated. But then wolves and the cubs of wolves mate for life, or so says the druid who is advisor to the Irish king's family.

Each of the marriages is arranged over the objection of the female who fights the husband who has laid claim to both her their lands and to her. This first story of Olaf and Erin in Golden Summer is a good one and tells us much of what the Norsemen contributed to Ireland's history. For in conquering they also came to give to the land and to give of themselves.

Olaf came in his dragonship not only to conquer but to build a kingdom and to stay. He welcomes the Irish king's truce sealed by his daughter's hand, even if he has no desire for the Irish wench. Erin, who has met Olaf before and hates him, feels betrayed by the father she loves. Though the marriage begins on very bad terms (she is drugged), love changes things in the end.

Graham's writing is, as always, very well done with superb historical references woven into a love story that befits the cultures of the hero and heroine. The sexual tension is high and the love between Olaf and Erin believable.

I highly recommend this trilogy. For you Irish romance lovers, it's a story of the early days in that great country.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Elizabeth Chadwick’s THE OUTLAW KNIGHT – A Sweeping Historical Saga and a Captivating Love Story—the real Robin Hood of Legend

Set in medieval England, beginning in 1184, this is the story of Fulke FitzWarin, the oldest son of the FitzWarin Marcher Lords. At age 15, he becomes a squire of Ranulf de Glanville, the Justicar. Fulke’s family is hoping through influence with King Henry and his court to regain Whittingdon Castle in Shropshire, their inheritance lost in the Welsh wars to Roger de Powys.

While acting the squire, Fulke runs afoul of young Prince John’s cruel temper during a game of chess and the two young men become life long enemies. Fulke is removed from court to become a squire to Theobald Walter, a powerful baron. Years later, Fulke becomes a knight just as a young, 12-year-old Maude le Vavasour is betrothed to Theobald, who is three times her age. When Fulke and Maud meet again, she is 16 and being wed to Theobald. Fulke and Maude become enamored with each other, though they avoid each other and remain true to their commitments. In the background lurks Prince John who lusts for the beautiful young woman.

Much happens over the years as we follow the lives of Fulke and Maude. (Fulk III—no “e”—was a real historical figure, who married Maud le Vavasour—again with no “e”—and rebelled against King John from 1201-1203, living in the woods as an outlaw ala Robin Hood. Lest you worry about him (as I did), Fulk III lived into his 90’s, which given his life and the times, was a miracle.)

Chadwick brings the history to life with a richness that makes you feel like you’re living it. It’s a well-told tale with extensive historical detail and vivid pictures of the social and political happenings of the times. Chadwick’s medieval vocabulary, dialog and descriptions reflect considerable research, as do all her novels.

Both Fulke and Maude are compelling characters as well as real historic figures; you want to see them together. He is an honorable man much like the Robin Hood we imagine, and she is an intelligent, spirited young woman just like Maid Marian. It’s a love story that will keep you turning pages. I thought the way Chadwick dealt with the historical figure Clarice de Auberville was brilliant—and believable.

Though Chadwick typically writes historical fiction with romantic elements, there’s enough romance here to satisfy the historical romance lover. I recommend it.

Note: This was first published in the UK as Lords of The White Castle, and follows the FitzWarin family saga begun in Shadows And Strongholds, but it can be read as a stand alone.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tamara Leigh’s THE YIELDING – Heroine Falsely Accused Struggles to be Believed

Set in mid-12th century England, this is the story of Lady Beatrix Wulfrith, sister to Garr Wulfrith. She had thought to give her life to the Church when she encounters Lord Michael D’Arci, a man who hates her because he believes she murdered his brother.

Henry is now king and orders that one of Wulfrith’s sisters must marry the baron whose brother died at the hand of the Wulfriths (which took place in book 1, The Unveiling).

Since Beatrix was destined for the Church, it was decided tht Beatrix’s sister would go to the baron, but she does not want the marriage. So, the sisters plan an escape during which Beatrix falls into the hands of Simon D’Arci’s lust. In her attempt to defend her virtue, he falls on a knife and is killed. In the same incident, Beatrix hits her head and the injury affects her speech.

Simon’s brother, Michael, had been falsely accused of rape years earlier, thus he refuses to believe Beatrix’s accusations against his brother. When he finds himself at her mercy and she treats him kindly, he must reexamine his firm convictions.

There’s lots of action in this one, followed by Beatrix’s solitary existence hiding out from Lord D’Arci (which part was slow) and D’Arci’s commitment to revenge (he calls it justice) was a bit over the top at times. In the end, Beatrix tells her story and is believed. While not as good as the first book, it is well written, as always. A great medieval series all in all.

Monday, December 16, 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!

The Cheyenne trilogy:

Capture the Sun
The Endless Sky
Sundancer

Friday, December 13, 2019

Tamara Leigh’s THE UNVEILING – Superb Medieval Romance!

Set in mid 12th century England, this is the story of Lady Annyn Bretanne, who lives for revenge on the man she believes hanged her brother and then lied about it, Garr, Baron Wulfrith. Wulfrith, as most call him, is known for the training of knights and was saddened when the young knight who was brother to Lady Annyn hanged himself, or so he thought. Wanting to sink a dagger into Lord Wulfrith’s heart, Annyn disguises herself as a squire and, using another’s name, enters Wulfen Castle where only men are allowed.

Annyn and Garr will clash as he is harsh in his training and she is resentful of the man she intends to kill. The training of knights goes on as King Stephen and young Duke Henry vie for the Crown of England. They will demand loyalty of their followers and will seek alliances with the powerful Lord Wulfrith and a favorable marriage for Annyn she does not want. Garr initially supports Stephen but comes to see Henry is the better choice. He has no idea one of his squires is a woman until she is “unveiled”.

This was so well written wth Wulfrith doling out “lessons” to his squires, lessons they would all remember. As he and Annyn discover they care for each other, she spouts the lessons back to him. Only Annyn had enough faith in her brother that the lies about him do not penetrate her loyalty. I loved that. Gar, initially cold and seemingly proud, is an honorable and truly humble before God. The treachery behind the mysterious death of Annyn’s brother is slowly revealed to great effect.

A wonderful medieval romance that will definitely hold your attention. It weaves in Annyn and Garr’s faith, too, as they develop over time. It’s very well done! Garr and Annyn are going on my Favorite Heroes & Heroines list!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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

This historical romance will tear at your heart, I promise. It covers twelve years (1879-1891) in the lives of Americans trying to carve out a life in Montana frontier. She weaves a 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 her 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!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Jan Cox Speas’ BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH – A Highland Classic and an Absorbing Love Story from 17th Century Scotland!


A bestseller when it was first published in 1954, it has been off the market for some time. The edition I read was published in 1978, available used at the present time. It’s worth obtaining a copy, trust me. If I could give this novel more than 5 stars, I would. It’s a keeper and so well written it would be a good model for authors today. Even though there are no love scenes per se, there is a lot of sexual tension and much romance to satisfy the historical romance lover. The writing is simply beautiful.

Set in the Scottish Highlands in 1614, it tells the story of Elspeth Lamond, a beautiful young woman, the product of a handfast 20 years earlier between her Campbell mother and Lamond father, both Scots. Raised in England, she is also a favorite at Queen Anne’s court. Her uncle, the powerful Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, has plans to marry her off to a rich, titled man. But to fulfill a promise to her dying mother, she leaves London for the western coast of Scotland to Inverary, the home of the Campbell’s, her mother’s clan. On the way, she is abducted by the MacHughs and held at Rathmor castle where she was born, the lair of her father Robert Lamond and his ally, Sir Alexander MacHugh, Chief of Clan MacHugh—the feared “Black MacHugh.”

Alex is attracted to the strong-willed Elspeth—a perfect match for him—from the very beginning. He wants her as “his lass,” but does not speak of his love nor offer her marriage. Elspeth is exasperated by the arrogant Scots chieftain who kisses her whenever he likes, but discovers she likes the Scots and the wilds of the Highlands—and she likes the MacHugh. As her father tells her of the qualities than make Alex stand out as a leader, respected by all, he says, “…Scotland is a quarrelsome place at times, my dear Elspeth, and a man must look sharp to keep his head intact upon his shoulders.”

Schemes and treacheries abound in this well-told tale, not only from Elspeth’s uncle but from Alex’s mistress, the beautiful Kate who would force him to wed her by getting with child. Alex takes a stand with the MacDonalds in their battle for independence in the Isles against the Campbells fighting as King James’s catspaw. The characters are compelling, the action suspenseful and the anxiety as to whether Elspeth will end up with the MacHugh will have you turning pages late into the night.

I liked Alex and Elspeth so much they’re on my Favorite Heroes & Heroines list.