ROMANCE NOVEL REVIEWS


I read a lot of hysterical (and other) romances. These are reviews on what I have read. None of it is classy, rarely are they beautiful, sometimes exquisite, often times terrible and too often they have one spelling mistake and one grammatical error in the first 30 pages but I love, love them. I cry and laugh on public transport, I miss the characters when they are gone from my life and I covert a good read, always. Good sex is a bonus, it takes a pleasurable book and a talented author to offer both.

REVIEWS
Pocket Book Romance Treasured by Candace Camp. I discovered there is a genre of books I have previously been ignorant of 'urban fantasy'. What a mantle. I'm not sure if this is one of those, merely that there was an ad in the back of the book mentioning the above. Anyway, Isobel Rose is a scot brought up unconventionally in the wildes of scotland, whose family home gets lost to a cardsharp, slipping like pond water through the fingers of Andrew Rose at a gambling table in London one night. Isobel's brother is a bit revolting, it's a credit to the writer that we feel this way, and it's through him that Jack Kensington comes to own Baillannan, Isobel's ancestral home. Isobel has been in command of Baillannan, in her brother's absence, for a handful of years (plot flaw it's not abundantly clear how old any of the central characters are). Baillannan is in the foggy, isolated Scottish highlands. The servants take a quiet stand against Jack and he is subjected to blood sausage, haggis, watery stew, cold tea and congealed porridge all in the first twelve hours, they lodge him in the coldest, ugliest guest chamber (before Isobel finds out and puts it to rights) but he doesn't go away. Instead he marries Isobel, turns out to be actually quite nice (if you can forgive him the enviable family trait of being able to hide every one of his emotions) and has a secret hankering to belong somewhere. At the same time Isobel unravels a story of familial intrigue - secret passageways, castle ruins, old bones and a fortune. Our hero Jack is a little bit elusive, not the least because there are SO MANY central characters in this book, it's also hard to work up a 3D assessment of him, given the author's lack of attention to detail; notably no ham hands (*sigh*) and no 'blazing depths' for eyes, although they do twinkle from time to time. As part of the sweeping storyline attempts are made on his life but they aren't very scary and he always recovers. Happily there is sex and it's pretty good. All up? Missable.

Berkley Sensation Paranormal Romance Wild Cat by Jennifer Ashley. This was a library book, I had a whole afternoon and I wasn't feeling very well. I have a driving aversion to 'speculative fiction' and all things (crap) and paranormal. None-the-less I persevered. Police detective  Diego Escobar meets Cassady Warden when she's naked in an abandoned construction site. He's all olive complexion, dark eyes and unresolved dead-partner angst and she's mate-less having lost her lover 12 months prior in a senseless killing, lives on the outskirts of town in a persecuted village and changes into a panther at will. It's pretty silly. All the Shifters (animal-people) wear collars to control their killing urges and luckily Cassidy prefers being human when she has sex. There's a ridiculous scene when he's introducing her to his friends as his girlfriend and one of his mates says 'I want to see' so she pops off into a spare room (they're at a dinner party) disrobes and emerges as a giant cat, a dangerous don't-put-children-or-stray-fingers-near-it animal and they all get to pet her and then she puts it away. There's lots of battle-type action with bears, cats, wolves and maybe ermines (who cares), lots of turgid soul searching and I had questions, so many questions about this particular parallel universe with it's master faeries and other palaver I choose not to mention here. And it's one in a series. Oh the joy. 

Zebra Historical Romance Once a Soldier by Mary Jo Putney (endorsed by Sabrina Jeffries on the cover no less). Multi-lingual, humble and handsome, grey-eyed Will Masterson is a peer of the realm and a serving soldier. Set at the end of The Peninsular War (1807–14), a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and the allied powers of Spain, Britain and Portugal, we are propelled into the heady/unlikely domain of an isolated kingdom of wine growers devastated by the french only a year earlier, it's a cute little recovering kingdom populated by impossibly beautiful, humble, helpful and talented people (they rebuild the centuries old bridge and excavate hidden wine stocks blocked into a mountainside by an avalanche in just one week). Being alarmingly attractive, Will and Athena Markham, advisor to the heir to San Gabriel hit it off. He's all broad shoulders, ham-hands, smouldering angst over his young wife back in England who died in child-birth and practicality, Athena's tall, elegant, plagued by a troubled childhood in the shadow of her mother the courtesan and proficient at gun-slinging. Also there is a princess, her lost father and brother and a baron she's in lust with from the other side of the mountains, heir to a port (the fortified alcoholic kind) fortune but that's a side story. There's battles and realistic depictions of likeable villagers and strangely detailed meal descriptions to lead us through this almost 350 page saga. Will and Athena's courtship is quaint and sweet,against a backdrop of blood-thirsty desperate frenchman en masse and lots of acts of unthinking bravery. Disappointingly the sex was a bit haphazard and incidental: "He loved the way she filled his embrace, woman-soft, woman-strong, and woman-scented." Blergh.

Dell Historical Romance Slightly Dangerous  by Mary Balogh. Hullo Mary. I've not encountered your writing before. The by-line is 'danger has never been so seductive'. We meet Christine Derrick and her widow's secret and a dashing older (35 *gasp*) Duke, Wulfric Bedwyn, whose surly and wolf-like and who hides his natural charisma beneath a veneer of carefully cultivated aristocratic civility and beautiful hard-to-read steel grey eyes. Christine is a disaster, she's pretty and shame-free and loves kids and gets into scrapes and she breaks down his defenses by being irritatingly honest and unfathomably beautiful. This is a pretty silly premise that sparkles with hope and good humour and fantastically painted characters that love the Duke (his large family) even though they know he's practiced his whole life to be surly and issue set-downs to the ton with just the arch of an eyebrow. The characters are robust and the falling in love/sex is sweet and unpretentious. I had a lovely time. Would seek out this author again.

The Professional by Kresley Cole - this book is awesome. It's like a firey, elasticated wet fish set out to slap 50 Shades in its tiny, strained cake hole. How I hated that book, I tried to read it but the writing was awful. This book is published less than 2 years after 50 Shades came out so it's possible the inimitable Ms Cole is just flexible her superior... muscle. The Professional is far from awful, it's about power play and being dominated and all the juicy fetishism that 50 Shades suggests but doesn't really tap into due to it's shitness. Aleksei “The Siberian” Sevastyan (he's a hit man) and Natalie Porter (art historian student) have a torrid romance with tonnes of sexy times and it rocked my world. Love it!

Leisure Historical Romance The Wild One by Elaine Barbieri. I love a good swoon and a false cover so this one was in with a chance. Tanner and Callie hook up in a reasonably unrealistic whirlwind romance; he's a bad boy farmer's son returned to take up his inheritance and she's on a mission to find her brother's killer. Tanner gets misunderstood a lot, like all good bad boys and there is an evil stepmother who is like a randy ice queen also trying to get in Tanner's pants. Great sex scenes and Tanner is super hot, a trouble maker and wildly lovable. What's confusing about this book? Why the threads of the story line are so complex and why NOTHING GETS RESOLVED. Weird, just weird.

Avon Historical Romance Married to the Viscount by Sabrina Jeffries. This one was torrid, he is a British nobleman (of course) and it's set around 1820. She's a 'wild rose' American and what with his abdominal war wounds (?1), wayward brother and massive parliamentary responsibilities, lots gets in the way of their love. There are couple of great foreplay scenes in this one and I learnt about an art-form called Peepshow Boxes, kind of like erotic pop-up illustrations. Who knew? Also, independent, American Abby introduces British society to mead as a perfume, which was... well not like the mead I've been drinking. I did get annoyed that his sterility got 'fixed' and the emotional roller-coaster wasn't really all that thrilling and if ol' Sabrina used the expression 'staff' or 'member' one more time...

Avon Historical Romance One Wicked Night by Sari Robins. WELL! A tale of love, seduction, death and misdemeanor... it starts with a fantastically silly scene where a private detective is drugged and tied to a bed by our virgin hero Lillian;
"So formal,"he breathed. "The women who tie me up usually have the decency to use my Christian name."
Lily has been in love with him from afar for ages and he's honourable, surly and gorgeous. There is a boarding house fire, the above-mentioned kidnapping and a murder mystery to solve. It's all not-very-memorable silly fun. 

Topaz Historical Romance Comanche Rose by Anita Mills. Extra points immediately to this one for the false cover and the bad cover art. Aside from that, this a tender story about two American's busily underestimating their own opinions of themselves. There's a lot of action, Indians, canyons, cold nights and 'protecting' of things going on. I'm always nervous about the severe lack of accurate political context in Texan frontier/ cowboy novels like this. To Mills' credit the plot-line was believably bloodthirsty. Annie and Hap try to get it together and live happily ever after despite numerous tragic obstacles. For a sweet depiction of a 'man's man' this one has some heart melting moments.

Troubadour Dare to Love by Jennifer Wilde. Mary Ellen gets swept up in a tumultuous life journey that takes her from Cornwall to ... well all over the world really. She meets a theatre producer (chicks dig theatre producers, especially this one) who reinvents her as a sexy Spanish dancer, hence the traveling. But Mary Ellen is a damaged little flower. She has her heart broken by a cad of a man really early in her life and through a spectacular set of circumstances far to intricate and complicated to describe here - think A very long Engagement meets Evita - she gets her man. Gut wrenching and well written with a score of minor characters you come to adore, this book has two main flaws. The hero is called Brence. (I know, right?) and Brence is a cruel, self-serving dick.

Avon Romance Deceive Not My Heart by Shirlee Busbee. Heroine Leonie Saint Andre is a headstrong little thing. She is, of course, stunning and a bit of a feisty wood sprite. Her's is a tale of clinging to an ancient ruin that passes as her family home. Two identical men take up quite a bit of time in her life (around 6 and a half years) fate intervenes and the good guy wins. Leonie is a bit of a downer in the girl-power stakes, but the sex is steamy and the sizzling attraction between the two leads makes it palatable. I did enjoy this paragraph :
"I am growing weary of this constant battle between us about my money. God damned it Leonie, are we to live in poverty because you haven't got the money to pay for the things that are needed to make the Chateau liveable? I am, may god forgive me, a rich man! Must I resign myself to moldy halls, a rutted driveway and mouse-eaten mattresses because you cannot afford to have them taken care of? For heaven sake, I have the blood money!"
Doesn't that make you want to rush out and embrace arrogant men? I have spent many milo-fueled nights wishing someone would extend this turn of phrase to me! SIGH.

Harper Historical Romance Jacaranda Bend by Charlotte Douglas. Now Charlotte, if you're going to make the central character such a petite, unworldly thing, flung into the great unknown at the death of her mean father, I want to know about her sexual awakening. I want to know that despite all the angst and the strange new land, that she gets an orgasm in her life. Our hero is a rancher in the pioneering days of America. He's all cold and broody, damn is there some pent up sexual angst... and here's the catch. No sex, not in the whoooole 325 pages. SIGH. Great story, NO PAYOFF.

Corgi Avon Gentle Feuding by Johanna Lindsey. A lowland girl and a Scots highland warrior/war lord *swoon* (my favourite) in a confused Romeo and Juliet scenario where they are merely running from their own fated union. Circular, with one hot scene that made it worthwhile and lashings of pride and burly fighting Scotsmen. Awesomeness. Like reading golden syrup.

LoveSpell Historical Romance Love Me with Fury by Connie Mason. Sweet, innocent Ariel Leland is rescued from a forsaken stage coach by bounty hunter Jess Wilder. These two have to overcome some odds to live happily ever after; mistaken identity, evil plots to destroy their trust in one another, an incest sub-plot involving a neighbour, her relentless, uncaring parent... It's a good story, sweeping, ludicrous and well fleshed out. Not as much sex as you would hope, but none-the-less.

Leisure Historical Romance Quicksilver by Sandra Duray. He's a shwashbuckling pirate type and she's a wimpy wannabe that ends up with what she wanted all along. There is a tiresome/funny scene where she almost dies of exposure and manages to retain her beauty afterwards, also an omnipresent evil woman trying to thwart the star-crossed lovers through out. Not so good.

Pocket Books If You Deceive by Kresley Cole. Amazingly steamy sex scenes, he's got heaps of scars (chicks dig scars), loads of money, he's enormous and Scottish and hung like a horse. What's not to like?

Avon Historical Romance By Love Undone by Suzanne Enoch. I love this author, she has a way of creating strong heroines and exciting 3 dimensional characters that is rare in this genre. He's a Marquis and she's a fallen woman, shunned by London for kissing some guy. It's an impossible situation where they cannot be together BUT WAIT, somehow it all works out. There isn't the satisfaction of a sex scene in a bed, it's a fairly torrid romance and he's a bit of a wet blanket. It's all believable though, except for the ending.

A BMI Edition. Love and Honour by Melody Morgan (1998). This is set in Texas at the turn of last century. Well fleshed out characters and a creeping romance that suddenly gets underway without you realising it. A relief from the usual bodice-heaving, angst ridden, love-plays that usually occur between the covers of such charmingly 'books'. She's a doctor (quite controversial for the time) and he's a smelly, gun- slinging bounty hunter. The only problem I had with the whole thing (apart from the inferred smelly-ness of the hero of the piece, what with his bed roll and out-back loving ways) was once they fell in love she lost the urge to wear pants to work (she had had her father's doctor garments modified) and had some dresses made. Oh and the sex scenes were vague and wishy-washy. Ew.

Pocket Star Book Romance Irresistible by Karen Robards (2002). WELL - an unloved married woman from a boring relationship gets kidnapped twice in one night. Hugh, the rough hero of the piece who's in the military and a spy and things... he rocks. He's also responsible for the 2nd of the two kidnappings. He's all fire and brimstone, together with a good measure of pent up, masculine angst. BUT Hugh isn't who he says he is and it all gets much worse as Claire sleeps with him thinking she'll never see him again BUT SHE DOES - cue intense angst-y scenes amid the English gentry at play in London. Also towards the end, her unassuming husband (yes, married to someone else!) conveniently goes nuts so he has to die, in an unforeseen act of lunacy. This leaves Hugh and Claire free to marry. I dunno, I didn't love it but it was ok. The ending was too neat.

Avon Historical Romance England's Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch. It starts with a silly premise based around snaring a husband and some of the plot is a bit obvious. However, I REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK. The hero is my favourite so far, Robert Carroway is a broody returned-serviceman in this period drama. He's got tormented azure blue eyes and dark hair and an amazing body with lots of war wounds like lashing scars on his back and 2 bullet wounds (chicks dig scars... 'specially this one). The character depictions are really well done, the romance is MAGIC and they have a great group of mates that carry the whole thing along to it's feel good predicable end. But in the meantime, he climbs through windows to get to her and rides lots of horses and battles depression SIGH like a good brooding hero should. Maybe it says more about me than the book but it rocked. Good sex scenes too and out of wed-lock GASP which for a period drama is quite risque. Shezam. I read a lot of crap and FINALLY a gem. WHOOP, good cheesy, romantic fun.

Zebra Historical Romance Outrageous by Katheryn Hockett. Go Katheryn Hockett, Go! Rehash what you said on the page before innumerable times using different turns of phrase and dwell on the boring past of your host of characters. The author claims to be writing about how women first got the vote and how they had to fight for the right to be heard. Only it's a wonder this thin plot line can be identified in amongst all the angst ridden musings and dewey eyed staring that the main character Elizabeth St John gets up to. It's corny - ya hear me? Corny and the sex scenes were WAY too dreamy and nondescript. Yuck. I'd preferred to have dunked a biscuit into bleach and popped it on my arm for 2 hours (the time it took to read this 'masterpiece')

Bantam Books Historical Romance The Seducer Madeline Hunter (2003) It's a play on words, see - as the main hero is a notorious womaniser who gets seduced by a young nubile thing that only gets more 'worldly' as the novel progresses. It had a pretty good story about a girl who couldn't remember her past and grew up in an orphanage and a lady paralyzed from the waist down, the woman's brother aka the 'devil man' , a duel and a few other plots thrown in. Great detail for the passionate embraces and some references to a naughty book with illustrations on sexual positions... fairly risque for the 1800's. To be honest the hero was very dark and broody but he was a bit weedy and had no external scars. No stars.

Zebra Historical Romance The Gamble Laura Parker (1998) So she is being held by a guardian who is mean and tyrannical, her brother - heir to her dead father's merchant fortune has been shipped off the wilds of Scotland and she convinces a brave and fearless rake/ Viscount who doubles as a highwayman to help her in her quest to go and get to her brother, to save him from death by exposure. So many twists and turns it was a bit too full on really. The dark hero is to-die-for, all reigned-in emotion and stormy features and he smells good, which is something I appreciate the author mentioning. NO SEX!!!! Argh. lots of kissing but a big red hot blank when it came to the bedroom department. At 413 pages I wanted some nookie pay-off for my troubles. SIGH

Bantam Books Historical Romance Dangerous by Amanda Quick. This is a pretty silly premise, based in London and the good bits made me laugh out loud. He's a feisty looking devil man - known by the nick name Fallen Angel (as IF!) and she's a simple country girl with good old fashioned values and virtues. Together they solve mysteries together and she tames the outlandish lord. It's got some cute moments where he's unsure of her love. One of the sex scenes depicted made me think of that nasal spray product cos he has an orgasm in about a second. Still, Sebastian Angelstone was pretty cool, despite his silly nickname... I would have gone with Dark Shadow myself but hey. All up; enjoyable

this was a BLAZE 4-in-1, another Harlequin label. They were all about fire fighters and fear if commitment and just long enough for a train journey. Perfect. My favourite was called My Grown Up Christmas List, YAWN. Totally out of season and cornier than corn on a cob. What is it about a man in uniform?

LESCO Books. Penelope Neri.1999. So they get married quite unexpectedly and the nurse maid turns out to be a bit of a weirdo. A bit of a non-event but a heads up to promoting sensuality.

Harlequin Mills and Boon A wild affair (1986) Charlotte Lamb. I didn't put the title in capitals because it wasn't. Lots of descriptions of boring meals, like cheese omelet. I know, what was I thinking? this one was penned in '82. Go the ordinary girl. He's a pop star and she's a receptionist for her father's vet. I have to stop reading Charlotte Lamb, is it a coincidence that I have been finding them in secondhand bookshops?

Harlequin Mills and Boon Hide and Seek (1986) Charlotte Lamb. The way the brother is written is worth a read for lol descriptions of a man you would NEVER want to be stuck in an elevator with. Is it to draw a comparison with the main male hero? Well who knows, the hero is not that likable either, too many birds of prey comparisons and apparently he had cruel lips. um.

Mills and Boon. Smokescreen (1982) Anne Mather this one was a cracker, if you like long winded plot lines with a really obvious hint in the middle. She is 22 and having married a really old squillionaire, after he dies the ostracised only child comes home and he's amazing, and he woos her. I wouldn't give the punchline away if I thought you were going to read it so anyway... it's not him. it's some other guy so it's ok to love him cos they aren't related. If it hadn't been raining I might have read this. No sex scenes either.

Mills and Boon. Impossible Bargain. (1987).
She's a model and he hires her to promote the shopping centre he built (I know!) or his company did anyway, and he hires her as fiance. UM. No sex scenes to speak of.

Harlequin Mills and Boon Heat of the Night (1986) Charlotte Lamb. In a word, ridiculous. Turns out if you stalk a woman, invade her personal space and offer her a job, despite the fact that you are a creepy womaniser she will fall madly in love and tame you forever. NICE

Harlequin Mills and Boon The Sheriff's Surrender (2001) Marilyn Pappano. So he's a cop and she's a lawyer and they were involved in an ugly case ten years ago when they were a couple. Now someone is trying to kill her and she needs to be protected, somewhere that the killer won't look for her. He really doesn't want to be her safe house but his brother puts him up to it and he gets stuck with her. It has some good points, moral and ethical law ponderings, she shoots a baddie dead at point blank range, he's hot and a cop and there is lots of detail about him in his uniform and half dressed weeeee. It just doesn't really ring true. Why would they have gotten so caught up on a case from ten years ago, surely bad stuff happens all the time? Too much nostalgic back story, detail on their family relationships (yawn) and quite frankly some really poor attention-to-detail in the sex scenes (which happen whilst he has a shoulder bullet wound - EW). Also improbably he has a bullet proof safe room in his flat and the town they are in is called Heartbreak. Ah, right. hmmm

Harlequin Mills and Boon Stardust Cowboy (1999). This Mills and Boon was definitely my favourite this year. The tension between the two leads built up really slowly and gently, they live together but were trying to stay out of each others way as hunky cattle rancher Riley is the brother of her now-dead, ex-lover and the father of her 8 year old boy. Baggage anyone? I gave this book away just after I read it cos I loved it so much and wanted to share, I'm not sure who wrote it but they got the hero just right. Damn hot, not very talkative, not silent and too shy to articulate either, but sensitive, hard- working and straight forward. She seduced him but without coming over all hot and heavy. It's her that gets their relationship a bit muddled in her head, which was pretty realistic in my experience. It was a very real romance, sweet and unassuming SIGH. Great fairytale.

Harlequin Mills and Boon This double whammie included A Texan Comes Courting (1999) Well the first thing I have to say about this one is ITS WRITTEN BY A MAN who is 'Lass Small' and what kind of a person uses that as a pen name? The prose was slow, like the countryside in which it was set. All the characters licked their lips so many times it was like a gecko get-together, oh and NOTHING HAPPENS except one guy and a lame story about some dead animals shot by an mystery person. No stars, it was bleak and stilted... like their Stetsons.

The Cowboy and the Virgin (1999) by Barbara McMahon. Good on you Babs, setting a really predictable drama in a place called Tumbleweed. The sex scenes were good, the angry evil older brother was 2 dimensional but he stopped short of rape so thank the lord. The cowboy was sizzling hot but a bit full of himself in the opening scenes really so it was hard to like him at first. Too much leering and posturing can alienate a hero- they get married after the 3rd date, UM sure... and it was all about really experiencing life UM. Only a couple of hard-to-spot contradictions here. Funniest moment? when Zach leaned 'negligently' against the stable wall.

Lucs Revenge
.by Catherine George. (1999) Ah Frenchmen. I read most of this one aloud to a friend and enjoyed the accents. It was a little hard to swallow cos the only plot sort of appeared in the last ten pages, a dead brother, a jealous mother to stop the union; a suitor with f%$# tonnes of money. I guess everyone assumes their dream bloke will be loaded... but really??? Surely not, where's the challenge/ power in being a kept woman? SIGH Lots of big unnecessary words too, like imperious, peremptory...don't get me wrong I love big words, just not in penny dreadfuls please!

Avon Books An Affair to Remember by Karen Hawkins. She's a governess, who used to be a lady but they went bankrupt and she was forced into the work force, he is (of course) an earl who inherits 6 children and needs them to be looked after. The scenery in this one is nice, and they do a lot of horse riding. Some spectacularly silly scenes that feel like fluff (one all about the kids stealing his shoes). Guess what happens? and there is a play in it, performed by the kids UM.

Pocket Books Romance (2009) Highland Scandal by Julia London. Full of (well there are two) monosyllabic massive Scotsmen so I really liked this one, there was lots of 'firey hellcat' scenes and a bit of heartbreak. It was actually good. I mean it, and I read a lot of them but I don't say that much.

Harlequin Mills and Boon (1994) Strange Intimacy by Anne Mather.
This literary gem pursues the English obsession with titled men and horrifically bad communication skills. She has unrealistically heavy hair (!?), but he's a down to earth spunk so it wasn't a bad read.

Love Spell Books (1998) Cinderfella by Linda Jones.
I know, I know, what was I expecting? He's a hot farm boy and she's been in love with him since she was a child. His horse is called Pumpkin and there is a masquerade ball. All up pretty silly but it did make me laugh out loud. Oh and the first one I've ever read where he was a virgin too.