Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Candice Proctor’s WHISPERS OF HEAVEN – Tasmania and Love in the 19th Century—a Real Adventure and a Great Story!

Proctor has delivered an enthralling romance set “down under,” on that mysterious island country, Tasmania, lying south of Australia. 

Set in 1840, it tells the story of Jesmond (“Jessie”) Corbett, an independent thinking, science-loving heroine who, while raised in Tasmania, spent two years in London studying geology. Returning home to the country she loves, she notices a new convict laborer, a handsome, green-eyed Irishman who, when he is not putting on the brogue, speaks as a gentleman. 

Lucas Gallagher, son of an Irish shipbuilder, was studying to become a barrister when the English brutally attacked his sister and him, scaring them forever. Spared a hanging, Lucas was transported to Tasmania to serve a life sentence as a convict slave. After brutal treatment by the English there, he determines to escape or die trying—that is, until he meets Jessie.

Proctor sheds light on the life of those transported to the Australian colonies as convicts destined to suffer cruel treatment and spend years, even their whole lives in some cases, as servants to the landowners. It’s a bit of history we should all know about and it causes me to respect those who made mistakes and more than paid for them. Night In Eden, her first book, is another great one that does this, only set in New South Wales.

As with her other romances, Proctor gives us a worthy heroine and a noble hero. Jessie struggles between doing what her family expects of her (an arranged marriage), and following her heart. Lucas struggles with whether freedom and/or death are preferable to being with Jessie as her convict servant. Neither can resist the other and both live desperate lives since they know they can never be together. Thank God this is romance and you know a happy ending is coming. But there is much angst and suspense along the way. This is a great novel and a great love story. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review: Bertrice Small’s THE KADIN – A Classic Saga: Love with a Turkish Sultan

First published in 1978, this was Small’s debut novel and by her own words, she spent five years researching it. I love that her stories reflect deep historical research. It shows in the many details and the vivid descriptions.

The saga begins in the late 15th century and covers more than fifty years. It’s divided into 5 parts, named for the heroine’s roles: the Ambassador’s Daughter, Cyra, The Kadin, Hafise and Janet. And the beginning and end, which take place in Scotland, provide perspective on her life. (And it’s in Scotland where the bodice ripping occurs.)

This is the story of Lady Janet Leslie, the only daughter of a Scottish earl, Lord Glenkirk, King James’ ambassador to the tiny Mediterranean country of San Lorenzo. At 14, she is happily betrothed to the San Lorenzo’s heir, but then she is betrayed by a servant, abducted and sold on the auction block in Crete. The highest bidder was Hadji Bey, chief eunuch for the Sultan of Turkey. Even Janet’s father could not find the gold to outbid him.

Taken to the Sultan’s harem, Janet’s name is changed to Cyra (meaning “flame” for her vivid red gold hair) and there she is taught all she needs to serve the Sultan (which conjured images of Esther and Daniel from the Old Testament). She also makes two friends bought by Hadji Bey around the same time, one from China and one from the Caucus mountains. These two women become her closest friends. When the 25th birthday of the Sultan’s youngest son, Salim, arrives, he is given the choice of six women from the Sultan’s harem to form his own. Unbeknownst to the Sultan, Hadji Bey has been hiding the three virgins he wants Salim to choose. Salim chooses Janet (Cyra) and her two companions, to be among the six, as he was encouraged to do by Hadji Bey.

A wonderful cast of secondary characters surrounds Cyra as she takes up her role as Salim’s favorite. And Small’s research is evident in the many details of harem life and the eastern culture that pervades the story. That Cyra, a strong-willed, high-spirited young teenager could easily accept her fate was a bit hard to swallow. But as the story continues, it is consistent with her character and her decisions to pursue the path of diplomacy and wisdom.
Kindle cover
Many things happen in this saga. There is intrigue, treachery (including murder) and jealousy among the women—exactly what happened historically. Cyra takes her place among the Kadins (the women of the harem who give Salim children) and becomes the bas Kadin, the mother of Salim’s heir, Suleiman (a real historic figure and the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire). Cyra’s wisdom and leadership rise to the fore and she is respected and loved by all but her rivals.

Great storytelling, wonderful characters and real history deftly woven make this a well-loved classic. However, the end is bittersweet, which will disappoint some romance readers who prefer to be left happy. And, with the events in the Middle East today, romances that feature a Muslim sultan acquiring an European Christian woman to add her to his harem, have lost much of their former appeal. It would not be the fantasy of many women today.

The sequel is LOVE WILD AND FAIR, the story of Catriona, one of Janet’s descendants.

Take a look at my tribute to Bertrice Small.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: Victoria Holt’s THE INDIA FAN –Sweeping Victorian Tale of Adventure and Love in France and India

This is the story of Drusilla Delaney, daughter of a rector living in England in the mid 19th century. Near Drusilla’s home was the elaborate Framling estate, or as she thought of it, “the big house”. The Framlings were an old wealthy family tied to the East India Company and they were significant in Drusilla’s life.

We meet Drusilla as a young girl when she is taken to the big house to be the playmate of the spoiled but beautiful Lavinia Framling. Drusilla had previously encountered Lavinia’s brother Fabian, who kidnapped her when she was only two because he wanted to “play at being a father” and needed a child. Ever there after, Drusilla was fascinated not only by the big house and its secrets but also by Fabian. And because of that she would tolerate Lavinia.

In the big house lives Aunt Lucille who once lived and loved in India and who possesses a fan made of peacock feathers. Drusilla wonders at the tears shed by Aunt Lucille whenever she reads her old letters from her lost love. And Drusilla wonders about the fan, until one day Aunt Lucille tells her it is cursed and brings tragedy to one who has possessed it, which thanks to one of Fabian’s games, Drusilla has done.

Because of her early relationship with Lavinia, Drusilla is swept off to France and later to India where she experiences the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a perilous time for Drusilla and those she has come to care about. It seems she cannot escape the evil magic of the peacock fan nor the Framlings, for good or for bad. There are three men in Drusilla’s life and whether she will end up with any of them is kept in doubt for much of the story. There are no love scenes in this well-told tale but there is much emotion. 

While I don’t generally prefer stories told in first person, there are exceptions, and Victoria Holt’s wonderful stories are among them. Superbly written, it tells a tale of mystery and intrigue, of a young girl’s strengths and insecurities, and her distant father who is more interested in Greek mythology than her. Interestingly, Holt rarely describes what anyone is wearing (the only clothing of her father we know of are his spectacles). She describes faces, most often expressions, that reflect the person’s character—and she does that very well. Drusilla is very perceptive, sensing others’ thinking long before those thoughts are reflected in their actions. So, while we are not in anyone else’s head, we have an idea of their thoughts.

The saga covers many years and is based on meticulous research. It is very well done, the only exception perhaps being that the romance between Drusilla and Fabian was a bit understated until the very end. I recommend it!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: Amie O’Brien’s THE MERCHANT’S PEARL – Love in a Harem in the Late 19th Century Ottoman Empire

A great debut novel, this is a well-told tale that will sweep you away to an exotic locale drawing you into harem life. You will not forget the well-developed characters.

Set in the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century (beginning in Istanbul in 1875), this is the story of Sarai, the daughter of missionaries. She was very close to her father who called her his “Pearl”. When she is eleven, her parents were killed and she was sold into slavery. Renamed “Leila”, she is made a “concubine-in-waiting” for Sultan Aziz. But as an older teen, she is claimed by his son, Prince Emre and becomes his concubine.

The story begins with a rather vague prologue, but then immerses us in the life of a haren. Told from the first person (we are only ever in Leila’s head), we see the quandary Leila faces as she is thrust into a world where she goes nowhere unguarded or uncloaked (save for her eyes). Mindful of her heritage, she fights the idea of being “owned”, even rejecting Prince Emre’s gifts.

Meanwhile, giving in to Leila’s preferences, Emre makes no sexual demands upon her. (He has two wives and two other concubines for that.) With Leila, he just talks about his life and his family’s struggles. They become friends, slowly learning to trust each other and confide their secrets. Leila shares her love of Jane Austen’s novels with Emre, who—like Leila—feels trapped by his life and so they become kindred spirits.

The romance between Leila and Emre is a slow burn (466 pages) as friendship develops into love. For being twenty, Emre is a most mature and unusual man. Leila is a Christian who, at one point, tells Emre she is planning on becoming a Muslim. But then she tells him she cannot read from the Quran, as it would betray her father’s faith. And her thoughts suggest she is a believer in God (not Allah).

History is woven in through what Emre shares with Leila about what is happening in his father’s kingdom, reflecting considerable research into the culture and the history of the time. Only two things distracted: the dialog and phrasing is often modern (the use of “Hey” as a greeting, for example); and the end feels like the middle in that there is no clear happy ever after or any clear ending. It feels like “to be continued” should be added. So, one presumes another installment will be forthcoming.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Review: Betina Krahn’s THE BOOK OF THE SEVEN DELIGHTS –Adventure and Love in Morocco!

Want to take a trip to Morocco searching for the remnants of the Library of Alexandria? Want to do it with a sexy, funny hero with a name like Apollo Smith? Then this is the romance for you!

Betina Krahn has become a favorite of mine. This book is the first in her Library of Alexandria duology. (The Book of True Desires is the second.)

In this first one, set in the late 19th century, we meet librarian Abigail Merchant (“Educated, opinionated, respectable, headstrong and too caught up in her high-minded pursuits to recognize, much less respond to the lust she inspired”), who is traveling to Marrakech to find what she believes will be some lost volumes from the famed Library of Alexandria. On her way, she encounters Apollo Smith, who due to treachery, was forced to serve 5 years in the French Foreign Legion and, having escaped, has returned for some mysterious “family matter.” He agrees to help Abigail reach her goal for half the prize she uncovers.

Krahn does a superb job of bringing the Moroccan desert to life, the Berber tribes, the Legionnaires, and the hazards of travel at the end of the 19th century in such parts of the world. Very cleverly she helps us experience the mind of a librarian, who catalogs everything she thinks of under various numbered library categories.

Then there is Apollo. Had to love the guy who described Abigail as a woman “who had a way of finding every sensitive nerve in his body and every sore subject on his mind.”

Great writing and a great story. A worthy romp.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: Dorothy Eden’s SLEEP IN THE WOODS – Absorbing Story from New Zealand in the Late Victorian Era

Two authors I greatly admire, Heather Graham and Cordia Byers, recommended this book to me. I am so glad they did. Though it was published in 1960 (I bought it used on Amazon), it is a worthy story readers will enjoy today (with one caveat you’ll see below).

Set in the late Victorian period, the story tells of Briar Johnson, who as a baby was found in a cold ditch by the side of the road clutched in the arms of what was presumably her dead mother. Briar was fortunate to be raised in the home of a schoolmaster who found her intelligent and taught her to speak well and read the classics. When he dies, she takes a position as a maid and sails away to New Zealand with two young ladies sent by their family to find proper husbands.

Beautiful Briar (named after the briar rose) determines she will one day have the finer things in life, the life she believes she was meant for. So, when the opportunity comes, she attends a ball that would be forbidden to her and dons a mask for a masked game that has the men picking prospective brides. Alas, she did not get the man she wanted. Instead, she got the hard Saul Whitmore, cousin to an earl and wealthy in his own right with a sheep ranch and the finest house in the area deep in the wild country.

Saul, at his mother’s urging, intends to take a wife, but most of the women he meets are insipid creatures who can only talk of gowns and parties. In Briar, he sees a woman who has a fire in her green eyes that intrigues him. So he determines to have her. With few options and urged on by all, Briar accepts his proposal of marriage even though she hates the hard man who mocks her at every turn.
The title, “Sleep in the Woods” was used twice in the book, once as a euphemism for death, the death that was all around the pioneers living in Taranaki in the shadow of Mt. Egmont on the North Island of New Zealand. When they were under siege by a renegade band of Maoris, the Reverend prayed: “Grant us to live, and not to sleep in these woods, unless that be Thy will. If we must die, let us do so bravely…” But then later, Briar remembers a passage from Ezekiel 34: “…they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods,” which gives a more favorable aspect to the title and comports with the excellent and very happy ending.
Suspenseful action is infused throughout this well-researched story. Wonderful characters populate every page. Beautiful descriptions of both flora and fauna are tucked in without you really being aware. And the hero and heroine are striking. Saul, a man whose strength enabled him to carve out a destiny in New Zealand’s wild country, was a worthy hero, though often harsh. Briar, grasping at the security Saul’s wealth provided, had a tender heart for all. She was the mistress of his house and the courage of the people as they faced hardship and death. I could not help but love her.

The only thing this story lacked—and might have been better for it—were love scenes. So much emotion was left in the dark. What Saul and Briar shared in bed might have told us their real feelings for each other when their words did not. An entire wedding night was summed up with one word, “Afterward.” There is even a bodice-ripping scene rather late in the book but, without the follow through, it was a bit obscure. But one must make allowances for its year of publication—1960.

Still, it’s a great classic and a worthy read—and set in an exotic locale!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Lara Blunte’s THE ABYSS – Love & Danger in 19th Century Brazil

Set in the early 19th century, beginning in 1803 in the regency of Prince John of Portugal, this is the story of Clara Moreira Tavares whose domineering mother tells her she must marry title and money. But Clara wants only Gabriel Almada de Castro, the younger son of the Marquis de Vargas. When the marquis disinherits Gabriel for his choice of Clara, at the urging of her parents, she refuses his proposal and he disappears.

Four years later Napoleon is about to invade Portugal and the regent decides to flee with his court to Brazil. Clara and her family go with him, to find a new life. Meanwhile, Gabriel has been busy amassing wealth in that same country and, betrayed by his partners, is suspicious of everyone.

In Rio, Clara again meets Gabriel and, this time when he proposes, she accepts. Married, they move to the interior where he has vast lands. When a letter arrives describing Clara as having been the lover of a former suitor,
Gabriel believes the lie even when the evidence suggests otherwise (among other things, she was a virgin on their wedding night).

Notwithstanding his past, Gabriel’s behavior seemed a bit inconsistent with his “deep love” for Clara. She acts the saint and continues to be the perfect lady, reigning over Gabriel’s estate and winning his people’s affection, in one case, too much affection, which endangers them all. Much happens in their on and off again love, the dialog well written.

As with the first book I read by this author, it took me some time to get used to her style of writing. She uses mostly narrative to “tell” the story with the heroine as the primary storyteller. But the writing is good and there are some very exciting scenes as she vividly portrays life in the backcountry of Brazil. (The setting is certainly exotic.) For those looking for the unusual in romance, I recommend it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: Karen Robards’ GREEN EYES – A Mystery Surrounding Emeralds and Love on a Ceylon Tea Plantation!

August in Exotic Locales month on Historical Romance Review… when we take those vacations without leaving home! I’m starting with one by a favorite author, Karen Robards.

Green Eyes is set in 1832, the story of Anna Traverne, who is left penniless after her husband dies in Ceylon where they had a tea plantation. Now she and her 5-year-old daughter are at the mercy of her husband’s brother, Graham, who, though married, wants Anna in his bed. She resists and is hiding away in the study one night when a man breaks in and tries to steal the Queen’s emeralds, a set of family jewels that was hidden away in a secret compartment.

It turns out the housebreaker is none other than Graham’s half brother, Julian Chase, spurned by the family but who may, in fact, be the true heir. In a tussle, Julian flees and ends up in Newgate prison. Anna realizes Julian has left the emeralds and they are her ticket to a new life. She takes her daughter to Ceylon where Julian pursues her. Not only does he now need the emeralds that were once his mother’s, but he has been told the emeralds hold the key to his heritage.

Robards is a great storyteller and I was immediately drawn into Anna’s life. Bold, brash Julian has been wronged. Understandably he is an angry man and he means to take out his frustration on Anna. Loved them both.

It’s a bit of a mystery and an exciting read with a nasty villain in Graham and some delightful secondary characters, including the former prostitute who is Anna’s friend, and Julian’s sidekick, a man whose life he once saved. There’s also a bit of Ceylon’s darker atmosphere thrown in, too.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Amazon Giveaway Sweepstakes for Two of my Award-winning Novels!

Win the award-winning ebooks that begin two of my series in an Amazon sweepstakes! Through August 3, enter for each with one click using the links below.

The Red Wolf’s Prize: http://ow.ly/E4oc30e2OZV
To Tame the Wind: http://ow.ly/JBmF30e2P86

The Red Wolf’s Prize is book 1 in the Medieval Warriors series and To Tame the Wind is book 1 in the Donet Trilogy and the prequel for the Agents of the Crown.

What the reviewers say:

“Masked balls, handsome sea captains, and a plot that will keep you hooked. What's not to love!? To Tame the Wind is romantic historical escapism at its finest—a historical romance fan's dream of a novel! 5/5 stars.”  – Good Friends, Good Books

“WOW! WOW! WOW! The Red Wolf's Prize is an absolutely spectacular medieval read! Totally got swept off my feet! Loved it! Beware this book is definitely one for the keeper shelf!” 
Tartan Book Reviews   

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: Rosemary Rogers’ AN HONORABLE MAN – Love and the Underground Railroad During the Civil War

Set in the South beginning in Jackson, Mississippi in 1861, this is the story of Cameron Campbell, a sheltered Southern belle and the daughter of a respected Mississippi senator.

When her father decides to stand with the Union and move his family north, Cameron’s world changes. Her father dies in a mysterious accident and a man from her past, one she once thought never to see again, comes back into her life.

Years ago, Captain Jackson Logan walked away from Cameron. Now he hopes to win her back but he has a job to do in the war and not just the blockade running everyone’s awar of. Cam doesn’t trust him and she often does stupid things placing herself and those she loves in danger for Jackson, an honorable man to save her.

Cameron’s brother—a bitter man jealous of Cameron’s favor in the sight of their father—takes his vengeance out on the slaves their father would have freed. Grant Campbell lives a dissolute life, indulging his whims and passions and squandering the inheritance left to him. To save those closest to her, Cameron is forced to seek Jackson’s help.

Rogers delivers an emotion-filled tale but you won’t see much of the Civil War battles. You will get a sense for the risk those using the Underground Railroad took to find freedom in the North. And President Lincoln makes a cameo appearance. As for the characters, the hero is a noble sort with the charm of a rogue; the heroine is brave at times, but at others, her stupid and risky actions had me rolling my eyes. But Rogers writes well and manages to give us a good story.

This is book one in the Logan Duology. Return to Me is book 2.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Best American Patriotic Historical Romances

In this month in which we Americans celebrate our Independence, it’s a great time to read a story with a noble hero and a worthy heroine set in times when America’s future was on the line. 

Here’s the list you’ll want to pick from—all good ones! All on the list are rated 4 or 5 stars.

The French and Indian War (America before Independence):

Follow the Heart by Anita Mills
Ride out the Storm by Aleen Malcolm
Scattered Seeds by Julie Doherty
Windsong by Judith E. French

The War of Independence/Revolutionary War:

Caroline, Touch the Sun and Spring Fires, from the Beauvisage series by Cynthia Wright
Devon and the sequel The Black Angel by Cordia Byers
Fortune’s Bride by Judith E. French
Lanterns in the Mist by Mairi Norris
Love a Rebel, Love a Rogue by Shirl Henke
Love Among the Rabble by Lauren Laviolette
Love Not a Rebel by Heather Graham
Master of My Dreams and Captain of My Heart by Danelle Harmon
Mood Indigo by Parris Afton Bond
Passion’s Ransom by Betina Krahn
Scarlet Ribbons by Judith E. French
Silver Storm, from the Raveneau series by Cynthia Wright
The Paradise Bargain by Betina Krahn (Whiskey Rebellion), first released as Love’s Brazen Fire
The Wayward One by Danelle Harmon
Under Crimson Sails by Lynna Lawton (post Revolutionary War)
Velvet Chains by Constance O’Banyon

The War of 1812:

Fortune’s Flames by Janelle Taylor
Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee
Lord of the Sea by Danelle Harmon
Masque of Jade by Emma Merritt
Midnight Masquerade by Shirlee Busbee
My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas
Tainted Lilies by Becky Lee Weyrich
The Captain’s Captive by Christine Dorsey
The Plains of Chalmette by Jack Caldwell
The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon and Tom Curtis)
To Save a Lady by Patricia Preston

The Underground Railroad:

Passion’s Joy by Jennifer Horsman

The Civil War:

A Time for Everything by Mysti Parker (post Civil War)
An Outlaw in Wonderland by Lori Austin
An Honorable Man by Rosemary Rogers
Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin (post Civil War)
Bittersweet by Anita Mills (mostly post Civil War)
Bonds of Love by Lisa Gregory
Clingstone by Marti Ziegler
Dark Stranger and Rides a Hero (first two books in the Slater Brothers trilogy) by Heather Graham
Lavender Blue by Parris Afton Bonds
Master of Paradise by Virginia Henley
Midnight Confessions by Candice Proctor
No Greater Glory by Cindy Nord
One Wore Blue, And One Wore Gray, And One Rode West, Cameron Civil War trilogy by Heather Graham
Rebel, Surrender, Glory and Triumph (from the Old Florida's McKenzies series) by Heather Graham
Sing My Name by Ellen O’Connell
Straight for the Heart by Marsha Canham
Surrender in Moonlight by Jennifer Blake
The Black Swan and Moss Rose, duology by Day Taylor
The Outlaw Hearts by Rebecca Brandewyne
Tomorrow the Glory by Shannon Drake
Vagabond Wind by Amanda Hughes
When the Splendor Falls by Laurie McBain

In addition to those listed above, I hope you will consider To Tame the Wind, my Georgian romance set in the last year of the Revolutionary War with privateers and spies in England and France. And, for a story with a sea captain hero and a heroine looking back at the War of 1812, you might enjoy Wind Raven.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Constance O’Banyon’s VELVET CHAINS – Superb Storytelling in this Privateer Adventure from the American Revolution

Set during the American Revolution, 1779-1781, this tells the story of Lady Season Chatsworth, a young English beauty who fakes a tumble in the hay with the stable boy on their English estate to avoid a dreaded arranged marriage. Her reputation in tatters, her father the duke sends her away to America to marry her cousin, Sir Edmund Kensworthy, captain of His Majesty’s Guards in New York. But her reputation as a loose woman, false though it may be, has followed her to the Colonies.

Both Edmund and his handsome friend Lucas Carrington, to whom Season is immediately attracted, assume she is free with her favors, much to her chagrin. Meanwhile, there is an American privateer called “the Raven” terrorizing the British and winning the praise of the patriots.

This is a great story of a worthy heroine who is constantly faced with the foibles of men who underestimate her. She put up with so much one could only wonder at the wisdom of a 19-year-old girl. When she is captured by the Raven and held for exchange of an American prisoner, the adventure begins and Season finds herself in love with the masked man who takes her innocence.

O’Banyon vividly portrays the emotions of the Colonists with the British living among them. Our hero is a spy as well as a privateer and I loved that! This is one that will hold your interest. And though I might not have wanted to wait until the very end for Season to learn The Truth, I cannot deny I was absorbed enough to hang in there.

A few nits: With her careful attention to historical details, it was surprising O’Banyon got the forms of address wrong for the British nobility. If her father was the Duke of Chatsworth, their surname would not be “Chatsworth,” and she would not be “Lady Chatsworth” (that would have been her mother); she would be “Lady Season (surname).” Also, I just have to say that naming your daughter “Season” in England at that time (when “Season” referred to the London social season) would be like naming an American girl “Cotillion.” Seemed bizarre and it distracted. But these were minor in the scheme of the whole story.

This is a bodice-ripper, a privateer tale and an American patriotic romance. And it’s a keeper.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: Jessica James’ NOBEL CAUSE – Loving the Enemy in the Civil War

Set in Virginia, beginning in 1862, this is the story of Captain Alexander Hunter, an officer in the Confederate army, who is respected by all but continually outsmarted by a Union scout, a mere boy. In reality, the boy is a young woman named Andrea Evans, who works for her cousin’s husband, Col. J.J. Jordan of the Union army.

Thinking to send Andrea away from battle, J.J. sends her to Richmond on an undercover assignment to act the lady in the heart of the Confederacy. She is to report to Col. Daniel Delaney who is sweet on her. (Their emerging “sort of” romance was a bit confusing, especially given I was pretty sure Hunter was the hero.)

The author takes pains to tell us what courageous beings both Hunter and Andrea are—larger than life characters of extraordinary intelligence, strength, courage and ability. Andrea thinks Hunter is “the incarnation of knighthood”; he thinks her smile is “the sweetest that had ever illuminated a mortal face”.

Though she is a Southerner, Andrea fights for the North because of her past experience with slavery, slipping across the South’s lines, going without food for days (apparently without ill effect) as she defies Hunter. No less gifted than his nemesis, Hunter is committed to seeing the South independent.

Our heroine Andrea begins the story dressed as a lad with short hair, but less than a year later, she’s in Richmond with long hair, dressed as a lady and waltzing around the dance floor with Hunter, who sees her as the only intelligent female around. Her appearance, specifically her hair, was a constant question throughout the story. When she acted the lad, all accepted her as a boy; when she played the lady, she had a lady’s hair. Hmm….

When Andrea ends up in prison (beaten badly, but apparently not raped), Alexander brings her back to his family home to slowly recover. In that same house is Victoria, who we are led to believe is Hunter’s mistress, but we are never sure about that.

You won’t experience a major battle of the Civil War, but you will see some of the guerilla warfare Hunter and his men engage in and you will live through the aftermath of bloody men and horses.
I liked the story, much of it very well written, but the pace is uneven. The first part and the last part were the best; the middle dragged with the constant and repetitive bickering between Andrea and Hunter at his Virginia estate.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Becky Lee Weyrich’s TAINTED LILIES – Old New Orleans and the Pirate Jean Laffite in the time of the War of 1812

This is a wonderful novel from a winner of the Romantic Time Lifetime Achievement Award. Set in New Orleans and environs beginning in 1811, this is the story of Nicolette Vernet, a beautiful Creole girl, who falls in love with Jean Laffite, the gentleman pirate. I thought it was very brave of Weyrich to choose a real person for her hero, but she did it well and the story is absorbing.

Nicolette dreamed of a handsome husband and a family of her own, but it seemed fate conspired against her. Her first betrothed was killed in a sword fight and, to avoid scandal, her father sent away to Paris to visit her Aunt Gabrielle. On her way home two years later, her ship is attacked by pirates. She is rescued by Jean Lafitte who assumes she was raped. And thus begins an adventure that takes Nikki on a very different course than she’d imagined for her life.

Weyrich writes well and the story will keep you turning pages. It’s obvious she has done much research into the enigmatic figure of the pirate Jean Laffite. Her other characters are richly drawn, too, including Aunt Gabi and Jean’s two older brothers. I loved the romance that developed between Nikki and Jean and hated the bad guy that her father wanted her to marry. (Weyrich does a good villain!) If I had any negatives it would be Nikki herself, who at times seemed weak, yet at other times was brave and defiant.

I love this description Nikki gave of Jean’s hair:

“I’ll always remember the texture of his hair, how wonderfully warm it feels against my palms, how fresh and clean it smells, like sea air and Spanish limes.”

A great story from old New Orleans in the time of the War of 1812. I recommend it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Judith E. French’s SCARLET RIBBONS – Exciting Story of Love in the time of the Revolutionary War!

Set in Maryland in 1777, scarlet ribbons tells the story of Sarah Turner, originally from England who, through a series of misfortunes, is now innkeeper of King’s Landing, and wed to a man serving the loyalists. Then one day to her inn comes Forest Irons, a Rebel spy sent to watch the goings on at the inn for General Washington. Forest dons the disguise of a beard and an eye patch and poses as a man in need of work, a man with no loyalties. Sarah needs help at the inn and for her young son, so she hires him, never knowing he is an enemy and never telling him her husband lies in an unmarked grave nearby.

With treachery, intrigue, and bad guys aplenty, French weaves a well-written tale of love in the time of war. The story reflects extensive research as she puts you in the scene with conflicting loyalties as some Americans supported England’s reign and others wanted their new country free from England’s tyranny. Forest is a worthy hero, bound by his dream of a free America to the Rebel cause, yet finds himself falling in love with a courageous woman who is loyal to the Crown. Sarah is one smart, clever heroine who will have you cheering.

If you want to experience our nation at war in the time of its early beginnings, this is a great romance to read. While there are no battles, you’ll see what went on in the early days of the war between Maryland and the Rebels' winter camp in Pennsylvania.