Historical Romance Review: Texas Treasure by Victoria Thompson

Texas Treasure, Victoria Thompson, Zebra, 1985, Oliviero Berni cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

The Book

This review is of Texas Treasure, book #1 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson.

The Plot

Part One

The book begins in Rainbow, Texas, where Priscilla Bedford, the heroine, has come to be the schoolteacher for the town’s children. Picking her up from the stagecoach which brought her to Rainbow is Phillip Alexander “Dusty” Rhoades, the hero of the book. He is foreman of the Steele Ranch.

From the moment they meet, Priscilla and Dusty have chemistry, even as he is playing a joke on her by not immediately acknowledging her; she gives as good as she gets.

As the book goes on, Priscilla and Dusty become more attracted to each other but also do a lot of “he/she loves me, he/she loves me not”, which also leads to them intentionally and unintentionally hurting each other.

Dusty and Priscilla become lovers, which creates its own set of issues. While Priscilla and Dusty play “are we/aren’t we a couple?”, other stories are taking place. One involves Jason Vance, a Virginia native who was on the same stagecoach as Priscilla. He has come to Texas seeking a cache of gold that legend says is buried in Rainbow. Another denizen of Rainbow is Rita Jordan, owner of the town saloon, and a woman with bad blood toward Dusty.

Part Two

Later, Priscilla secretly buys a ranch. The significance of this is that the ranch belonged to Dusty’s family in the past. At first, Dusty is very angry, but he comes around and he and Priscilla get married.

However, Rita and Vance become threats to their marriage: Vance for the gold buried on the ranch Priscilla now owns, and Rita due to being rejected by Dusty years ago. Vance and Rita hold Priscilla hostage to force Dusty to tell Vance where the gold is. Two violent confrontations ensue, one between Dusty and Vance, the other between Priscilla and Rita. Vance assaults Dusty and escapes. Rita is shot and killed when the two women fight over a gun.

Priscilla and Dusty have their Happily Ever After, and the gold has yet to be found…

Upside

Priscilla and Dusty are fairly interesting characters. It is highly unusual in my experience to see a book where the hero’s emotions are on display as they are in Texas Treasure.

Downside

This, however, is not always a good thing. This book is the definition of T.M.I. Ms. Thompson exposes her readers to every emotion Priscilla and Dusty feel.

Every. Single. Emotion.

The book is way too long at 494 pages for the print version I own (average approximately 30 pages per chapter, with many longer than that, around 50-60 pages), which is difficult for time-challenged readers like myself. The Vance/Rita storyline is basically there to make the book longer, and neither they nor Priscilla and Dusty are the type of characters whose actions will be remembered after reading the book.

Sex

The love scenes–between Priscilla and Dusty and between Rita and Vance–are okay at best.

Violence

After Priscilla disciplines one of her male students, he tries to rape her; she is saved by Dusty. Vance shoots and later kills the former owner of Priscilla’s ranch. We learn that Rita is a serial murderess, who had a very traumatic childhood. I described the end of the book violence above.

Bottom Line

Victoria Thompson’s Texas Treasure is not a bad book, but it is also not a dynamic one, with too many issues to keep it from being a very good book.

Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol

raven
Raven, Shana Carrol, Jove, 1979, Ray Kursar cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Book

Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer) is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.

Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.

The Plot

Part One

The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.

Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.

The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.

Part Two

Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.

Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).

Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.

In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.

As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.

A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.

Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.

Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.

Part Three

Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?

Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.

More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.

Raven’s first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.

My Opinion

I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.

I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.

He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a genuine man who deserved her.

Final Analysis of Raven

This book was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.

As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.

If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.

I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it. 3.49 stars

Historical Romance Review: Colorado Jewel by Cate Brandt

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Colorado Jewel, Cate Brandt, Zebra, 1989, Robert Sabin cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

The Book and the Characters

This review is of Colorado Jewel, a standalone by Cate Brandt. (Zebra Heartfire, April 1989).

Heroine: Magheen Fitzgerald. Red hair, emerald eyes.

Hero: Daniel Calcord. Black hair, blue eyes. Businessman/lawyer.

The Plot

The book opens in Colorado, early September 1878. Daniel Calcord, the hero of the book and a businessman with his fingers in many pies, is heading toward one of his enterprises, a silver mine in the town of Leadville. His trip is delayed, however, as Daniel helps to rescue Magheen Fitzgerald, the heroine of the book, from a stagecoach accident. He nurses her back to health and they face many perils, one of which is their attraction to each other.

When one of Maggie’s brothers, Patrick, a priest, catches them in a compromising position, they are compelled to marry. Their engagement doesn’t go well.

Maggie and Daniel do eventually marry. Sexually, they’re compatible; in other ways, not so much. Things don’t improve when the workers in Leadville’s mines protest working conditions, leading to violence between the miners and the mine owners, with Maggie in the middle.

Later, Daniel’s mother, Mayse, shows up and causes problems for both Daniel and Maggie. Those problems endanger Maggie’s life.

In the end, Maggie and Daniel reconcile, have a child, and their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Aside from finishing the book… Maggie is a fairly nice character.

Downside

Daniel, who is a hot-and-cold blowing bastard.

First, he wants Maggie. Then, he doesn’t want her. This goes on for the entire book. He talks at Maggie, not with her, which creates almost all of their issues. Daniel is self-centered, egotistical, condescending, demeaning, and insulting to her. He accuses her of things that are not true. By the way, he never apologizes. There is no actual romance or character development, and the storylines, such as they are, zip back and forth without actually reaching a destination.

Sex

A few love scenes between Maggie and Daniel that don’t generate a lot of heat.

Violence

Assault, battery and one shooting take place “off-screen.”

Bottom Line for Colorado Jewel

Maggie is a nice heroine. She definitely needed an actual hero. She’s the only thing saving Colorado Jewel from a lower than 1-star rating. 1.11 stars.

Location: Leadville, Colorado. 1878-1880.

Tropes: Historical romance. Zebra Heartfire.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

The Highwayman, Kerrigan Byrne, St. Martin’s Press, 2015

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Book Review – The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

The opening chapter of Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman had me hooked. It has a lovely, heartbreaking beginning. Two lonely orphans in a child-care facility fall in love & “marry.” There’s a nice quote from the beginning where 8-year-old Farah teaches 11-year-old Dougan to read…and love. 

“Love is quite like reading, I expect. Once you know how, you can’t ever imagine not doing it.”

Young Farah tells Dougan before the pair are cruelly separated.

Fast forward 17 years, the heroine’s an independent, progressive yet virginal widow working for Scotland Yard & the hero’s an underworld king. Farah doesn’t recognize Dougan, but he does her, is furious she broke their vow to marry another man, so he kidnaps her and brings her to Scotland.

Then what started so beautifully took a turn into anachronistic historical. Eh, par for the course. Still, it was good. Or at least it was better than most modern historical romances I’ve read. So far.

But Farah was DUMB. She couldn’t guess who Dorian truly was? Same age, same coloring, & how did he get a scar on his eye just like Dougan did? Sharp as butter knife she is.

Dougan’s intriguing, yet while his attitude of “I don’t like touching because I was raped in prison” makes sense (and gave me shades of the film Buffalo ’66“No touching! I don’t like to be touched!”) but his “So just stand there and I’ll just ogle you while I bathe & masturbate” came off as pervy, not sexy. Damaged heroes=meh.

(PS: Walters=Hodar)

At 35% through listening to this book on Audible, however, I decided to return it. The narration was very good, but the story was getting way too repetitive. After a promising start, I found the heroine was both incomprehensibly modern & stupid at the same time. The hero…a douche, but nothing unforgiveable. Although his “Woe is me, you don’t know how much I’ve suffered” attitude was getting on my nerves.

So I returned the audiobook, and read the DTB version.

Alas, it was not to be. The angst was too overwrought, even for me, who adores an angst-ridden romance. And the mindsets were all wrong, far too modern. If I want contemporary attitudes in a romance, I’ll read a contemporary romance. This romance couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, which is fitting, as I couldn’t decide whether it was worth my time or not.

In the Warrior’s Bed by Mary Wine

In the Warrior’s Bed, Mary Wine, Kensington Brava, 2010, James Griffin cover art

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Something New-ish

After realizing that all the romance novels I read are at least 20 years old, I decided to give something newer a try. Mary Wine’s 2010 Scottish historical romance In the Warrior’s Bed is not a bad book, but it lacks that extra something that makes it memorable.

Actually it’s memorable for one thing: they didn’t get the cover right! If you’re anal-retentive like me, this will bother you. As much as I find them dehumanizing, a headless torso cover would have been preferable. The heroine is supposed to be blond yet the cover depicts a black-haired woman. And let’s not talk about the inaccurate plaid (grumble, grumble).

You can’t blame cover artist James Griffin because the heroine’s name is Bronwyn and most Bronwyns in Romancelandia have black hair, LOL. Plus the author doesn’t give a physical description of her heroine until page 69 of this trade issue book, and then it’s only to briefly describe her honey-colored hair. If one is writing a romance novel, there is no shame in giving a physical description of your character by page 10.

Book – In the Warrior’s Bed

Anyhoo, onto the actual book. We’ve seen this plot before: two Scottish clans are feuding, and the hero abducts the heroine, schtupps her silly and they fall in love, while the evil-doers do their bad thing and try to separate them/kill them.

In the Warrior’s Bed falters when the main characters Bronwyn and Cullen are not together, so fortunately, they’re together a lot. Cullen McJames is a sexy, masculine hero, but I couldn’t really understand Bronwyn. Her loyalty to her family is noble, although not reasonable. They treat her like a slave, humiliate her, and want her dead. Here’s this hunk with a brogue who wants to treat her like a lady, take her away from her violent clan, and give her lots of orgasms. But of course, she just has to fight him every step of the way.

As this is a modern Brava romance there will be no mention of manhoods, manroots, or members, however c***s will be constantly stirring in kilts. For the first half of the book, Cullen is in a constant state of priapism, even when the heroine is nowhere to be found. I thought the guy should have contacted his doctor because we’ve all heard what those commercials say about 4 hour erections.

Opinion of In the Warrior’s Bed

Although the romance here is a bit lacking, the love scenes are quite sensual. The good guys are good and the bad guys are eeevilll! Plus, there’s lots of blood and killing, which is fun in fiction. In the Warrior’s Bed ends nice and violently, so that’s a positive.

This is the second novel in a series of three books, so one day I may pick up the others out of curiosity because Ms. Wine’s writing style is to be admired. Still, it took me two weeks to finish this 277 page romance, as I kept putting it down and reading something else. I’d give it 3 stars, which is not bad, but not a keeper.

The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Serpent Prince, Elizabeth Hoyt,

“My darling Lucy.” He panted against her ear, and then his teeth scraped her earlobe. “I love you,” he whispered. “Don’t ever leave me.”

THE SERPENT PRINCE

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Book – The Serpent Prince

I’ve only read the first seven of Elizabeth Hoyt’s historical romances, but The Serpent Prince is far and away my favorite. And it’s all due to Viscount Simon Iddesleigh. This is third and final installment in her “Princes” trilogy, and what a way to end the series!

A Great Hero and Heroine

A dandy’s dandy, Simon dresses like a Georgian fop in full wig, red heeled-shoes and lots of lace. He falls madly for Lucy, a commoner with an over-protective father. Lucy saves Simon’s life after he’s found seemingly lifeless in the river and nurses him back to health.

Simon and Lucy are instantly attracted to one another, but they have social and emotional differences that are obstacles for them being together. Love wins out, though, and against Lucy’s father’s judgment, they get married. However, it’s not easy sailing for Lucy and Simon, as Simon has secrets that haunt him. He’s such a multi-faceted hero, and Lucy is a strong heroine with fortitude and dignity.

Simon’s foppish ways hide a tortured soul; he’s a deadly swordsman who seeks revenge against those who killed his brother. Only Lucy’s love and a decent friend are his only salvation.

When I thought of Simon looking like this:

 photo 1259916696_paul-bettany-20060103-95212.jpg
Jennifer Connelly is one lucky gal!

(SIGH!)

…It really hit all my right buttons!

Also a plus in this historical romance is that the relationship is consummated AFTER the wedding. In contemporaries I don’t care when it takes place, but in a historical I like that old-fashioned type of stuff.

A Favorite Romance

Many reader prefer the first two book in the series, The Raven Prince and The Leopard Prince to this one. As always, I’m a contrarian. They were good, however in my eyes they never reached the emotional highs of The Serpent Prince, which takes a spot on my all-time-favorite-romances list.

Transcendence by Shay Savage

Transcendence, Shay Savage, Shay Savage LLC, 2014

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4.5 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

First Impressions

Seriously? I loved this book. I can’t believe it, though! This is Twilight fan-fiction about a time traveling teen finding love with a caveman who acts like a protective puppy dog. I cried like a baby reading it. Must have been my time of the month.

My Frankensteinian Review Patched Together From Reading Notes

Shay Savage’s Transcendence is no great work of literature. It’s one of those pulled-to-pub Fan-fiction stories loosely based on Twilight. I have never read any of the Twilight books, nor read a sample, nor seen the films. I’ve never had a desire to do so, yet despite that, I know more about the series than I care to. If the names weren’t Ehd = Edward and Beh = Bella, I never would have caught on. Other than the hair colors and the fact that the hero is *OMG* so possessive, I don’t see any similarity between the series. There are no feuding groups, no love triangles, no baseball games, no battles.

80% of the book is just Beh and Ehd alone, dealing with the harsh environment with almost zero spoken dialogue throughout. It’s a primal love story between a young, frightened girl and a young, frightened male both trying to survive in a brutal world.

Although I’m not proud, I truly adored this book. It was written on a sixth grade reading level with the terms baby, mate or put a baby in my mate showing up on every single page! Transcendence was incredibly repetitive, simplistic, with a minimal plot, but it had its charms. I suppose it appealed to my inner 12-year-old, a being a I did not know was still in existence. Or, more likely, it reminded me of the film that I consider to be the most romantic movie with a happy ending: “Quest for Fire.”

In a caveman romance it makes sense that the hero is all “You my woman. I am your man. We are mated. I protect you and throw you over my shoulder so we make lots of babies.” That usually doesn’t work for me in contemporary romance or whatever genre. But here it works; it makes sense.

I’m seeing that many readers labeled Ehd an alpha male, but he came off totally beta to me. Maybe my definition of alpha male isn’t jiving with the accepted definition of the word. He wasn’t an independent type, he was always wanting to be with Beh. Ehd’s constantly thinking: “I want to protect my mate. I can never let my mate out of my sight. I will growl at anyone who comes at my mate. My penis is hard.”

He reminded me of my dearly loved and long departed American Eskimo dog. He was poofy, insanely loyal, hated being alone, loved to cuddle, barked at all strangers, and had constant erections when he was happy.

 photo 100_0575.jpg
My old American Eskimo doggie, standing by, ready to defend his pack, from all sources of danger, be it squirrel, bird, or UPS delivery man.

Some readers have assumed that Ehd is a Neanderthal, with a sloping forehead, and mouth full of huge teeth. But in her introduction to her book, Shay Savage states he is part of the early “Homo-Sapien” species, it’s just that he lacks the ability to speak. Artistic license and all that.

So rather than looking like this:

 photo quest4a.jpg
Handsome fellow, eh?

Ehd looks more like this:

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He’s cleans up nice for a caveman.

Transcendence was a rare experience for me as it was told from the male 1st person POV, which worked to add a sense of confusion. A young girl is propelled back in time and we have to put the pieces together to figure out what’s going on.

As much as I loved this book, I hope there is no sequel or one of those alternate POV sequels. The story finishes rather definitively. There are some hanging questions, but for me the ending was an ending. It was both a sad and happy ending, and one of the best endings I’ve read in a long time.

What can I say? Sometimes a story appeals beyond all rationalization and reason. I loved this one.

Spoiler Alert: Do NOT Read This Unless You Really, Truly Want To

After many years, children and grandchildren together, Beh dies of old-age and illness while Ehd holds her in his arms, lets the fire in the cave burn out and dies heartbroken. Just like a loyal doggie would.