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.

Covers of the Week #43

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George H. Jones

George H. Jones was an artist of remarkable talent. While not as well-known as Duillo, Pino, or McGinnis, to me his work is as compelling as theirs.

I encountered Jones’ gorgeous art while reading Harlequin Historical romances as a preteen. Highland Heather and Stranger In My Arms are two exquisite examples of his covers. They are forever etched in my memory. (As we’ve reviewed/highlighted those books before, we omitted them from this week’s showcase).

Only recently did I discover who this illustrator was. Since there are many George Joneses in the world, including several artists of distinction, it took some time to track down his information.

Jones was originally from Chicago and served in the Korean War. Later on he moved with his family to Milford, CT. Jones broke into the New York City commercial art world in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, he produced illustrations for big publishers including Dell, Simon & Schuster, and Pocket Books.

Readers familiar with Silhouette Intimate Moments, Pocket Books’ Tapestry imprint, and early Harlequin Historicals should recognize his artwork. He produced covers for Fern Michaels, Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, and many other popular authors. Jones passed away in 1993.

Jones’ use of light, bright colors (especially reds, golds, and purples), his unique brush strokes, and the hazy, dreamlike mood of his subjects combines to create memorable romantic tableaux. Whenever I come upon a new Jones cover, it is like celebrating Christmas, Halloween, and a single-digit birthday party all at once. There is no way to express the elation and admiration I feel when coming upon some never-before-seen Jones cover art.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, January 31, 2022, to Sunday, February 6, 2022, we’re delighted to display the glorious handiwork of George H. Jones.

Category Romance Review: Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash

Melting Ice, Rosalie Ash, Harlequin, 1989, Will Davies cover art

“Julius Korda is as cold as steel, as ascetic as a monk, and the only god he worships is the almighty dollar.”

MELTING ICE

Harlequin Romance (Special Subscription Series) #55

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Book

Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash is a hard little book to find in its original form. It was released by Mills & Boon in 1989 but only published as a special edition for Harlequin Romance subscribers. The book was #55 of that line.

The author has rewritten and “updated” Melting Ice as part of a trilogy, so the modern e-book version vastly differs from the original print copy.

This review refers only to the Mill & Boon/ Special Harlequin Romance edition of Melting Ice.

The Characters and Plot

Victoria Francis is an airy-fairy young woman living in the English countryside. The story begins as she’s walking on her hands outside and meets the hero while she’s upside-down. It’s a good metaphor for demonstrating Victoria and Julius’s opposite perspectives about life.

Julius Korda is a cold and calculating icicle. He is an avaricious businessman who wears power suits and ties. Julius works in the fast-paced world of… antiques.

(Wait a minute, that can’t be right. Let me double-check that. Nope, that’s correct.)

Julius Korda is a big deal in the throat-cutting world of old-time estates and furniture sales.

(I can see why Ash decided to give this book a rewrite. The hero’s occupation bugged the hell out of me. That did not fit his described persona. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying and selling antiques. But buying and selling stocks would have made in line with how Ash wrote Julius to be.)

Despite their decade-and-a-half age gap, the innocent Victoria and the money-hungry Julius form a connection. Victoria finds herself falling for him. In a surprising turn of events, the buttoned-down Julius has a moment of weakness, and he and Victoria make love. Victoria was a virgin, and a confused Julius leaves her.

Years pass. When they meet next, it will be under different circumstances. And Victoria will have a surprise in store for Julius.

(Sigh) Yes, this is a secret baby plot. Yada, yada, yada, you get the deal. Julius and Victoria reconnect and form a new relationship. Passion reignites. Julius learns that there are things in life more precious than gold–or 19th-century golden candelabras.

Final Analysis of Melting Ice

I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. Generally, plots with uptight heroes paired with free-spirited heroines are a joy to experience. There were good elements here. However, they were wasted.

I shouldn’t be so shallow, but I couldn’t mesh Julius’ career with the identity the author had created for him. Antique dealing is a step above being a beautician in terms of macho jobs for a hero (See my review of Easy Lovin‘. I wasn’t overly fond of that hero’s profession as a hairdresser.)

The secret baby surprise came out of left field. Victoria was too young and childish; it didn’t seem right for her to become a single mother abandoned by her one-night stand. And where the heck was Julius for all that time? Polishing his silverware?

Melting Ice started out quite charming. However, I couldn’t get over a few issues, making this an average reading experience. Maybe the updated version is better, but I’m not curious enough to check it out. I’d give this 2.95 stars.

Category Romance Review: Lover’s Touch by Penny Jordan

lovers touch
Lover’s Touch, Penny Jordan, Harlequin, 1989, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1216

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Book

Whenever I see an “Award of Excellence” ribbon on a Harlequin-published romance, I know I’m in for a mediocre read. I think they handed those accolades out simply to massage the egos of their big-name authors. It was never about the quality of the story.

Penny Jordan is an HP writer who’s all over the place for me. One book can be great, another full of crazy sauce, and others on the blah side. Sadly, her Lover’s Touch is kind of blah. The two protagonists are kept apart by big misunderstandings and lack of communication, which is never fun.

The Characters

Lady Eleonor de Tressail–or Nell as she is called–inherits a huge, impoverished estate. It’s a home she cherishes. Unfortunately, she has no money for the upkeep. But it must remain in the family. Selling it is out of the question. What is she to do?

Enter Joss Wycliffe. Joss was a working-class boy who grew up near the de Tressail estate. He had great aspirations of wealth. So he built himself from the bottom up to become a wealthy millionaire.

Before his passing, Nell’s grandfather devised an arrangement to keep the family’s home: a marriage between Nell and Joss.

The Plot

Nell has harbored feelings for Joss for years. However, she is painfully shy, which Joss mistakes for haughtiness. He brutally informs Nell that he’s only marrying her for her family name and status. Of course, any romance reader worth his or her salt knows this frank declaration means Joss is in love with Nell. Silly Nelly, with her insecurities, takes him at his word.

A couple of “other women” characters vie for Joss’s attention, and he doesn’t seem to be pushing them away. If only that silly Nelly would open her eyes!

Nell is not a bad person, though she’s sort of self-centered. She’s not very empathetic, spending much time wallowing in her own misery. Joss is contemptuous of her, lashing out cruelly at her. Nell shallowly believes that he resents her because of their class differences. But although she is very reserved, Nell can steel her will. She always keeps her dignity intact, giving as good as she gets, especially to the nasty other women.

Nell spends time preparing for her wedding, finding a way to do it using her limited budget. Pride demands she not depend upon Joss’ charity. Joss thinks his bride-to-be is attempting to belittle him by refusing his money. More misunderstandings ensue.

The two get married, and their good sexual chemistry is incredible. Despite this, their lack of communication and internal insecurities keep them apart.

Somehow, the misunderstandings prove useful in the end. Nell believes that Joss’ business is going under. He needs funds to put him into the black. Nell would do anything for the man she loves, so she’s willing to sell her estate to help him out.

That is when Joss realizes they’ve both been fools. He reveals his true feelings to Nell, and she melts in his arms, happy and loving.

Final Analysis of Lover’s Touch

Penny Jordan’s heroines tend to have these irrational insecurities that cause them never to speak up and express the truth. This leads to major misunderstandings, which drive the plots. If the plot is chock full of nuttiness, I don’t mind. When it’s a simple lack of communication in a basic story that could be resolved in under 100 pages, I feel like throttling the characters.

In Lover’s Touch, both the hero and the heroine are tight-lipped about their true feelings, making it doubly frustrating.

This wasn’t one of Jordan’s worst books. Despite my complaints, it had some interesting attributes. Nor was this one of her best.

Lover’s Touch is middling fare, meant to be read over a couple of hours and then forgotten. 2.5 stars

5 Signs You May Be Addicted To Romance Novels

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Are You Addicted to Romance Novels?

Do you primarily read romance? So do tens of millions of people worldwide! Perhaps you think your reading has become an obsession? Is that even possible? Maybe so, if reading too many books negatively affects your life.

There’s no need to despair. We can help you identify the symptoms of romance addiction. Our team at Sweet Savage Flame has pinpointed five signs that may indicate an unhealthy dependency on this bestselling genre.

5 Signs To Look For

1) You imagine yourself as the hero or heroine of your own romance novel. Do you bite your lips in consternation? Do you arrogantly raise one eyebrow in question? Is there an internal monologue in your head describing how your nipples become engorged whenever the object of your affection is nearby? These might be signs of romance addiction.

2) Your to-be-read list is more extensive than the list of books you’ve actually finished. This may be akin to your eyes being bigger than your stomach. In this case, your stomach is your ability to read. It may take you ninety years to complete all the books on your list, but you’re eating healthy, taking your vitamins, and exercising, so maybe you’ll last the long haul.

3) You have duplicate copies of the same books. This is intentional and you have no desire to sell them. Perhaps one book is for reading and dog-earing, while the other is a collector’s edition to keep in pristine condition. Possibly you own all printed versions of one book, just with different covers.

4) Where to store your books has become a major dilemma in your life. Your house is only so big, and there are only so many shelves you can put up. Some books are in boxes or bins. Others are stored under your bed. You start thinking to yourself, do you really need a closet for your clothes? Is a bathroom essential?

5) While reading a steamy love scene, you get so caught up you forget about all outside responsibilities. Sometimes a good book can be a major distraction. I know all about it. I burnt a pot of beans I was supposed to be watching while reading Tiffany White’s Forbidden Fantasy. My mother has never let me live that down.

In All Seriousness, Is Romance Addiction Real?

Is romance addiction real? Author Francine Rivers has talked about her obsession with these novels, as both a reader and a writer. She felt they became a form of escapism from what was truly important in her life, her religion.

Addiction comes in many forms. If you allow something to take over your life to the detriment of all else, that is harmful. Romance is not innately malignant. People can be dependent upon almost anything, from the most benign activities to potent intoxicants. Nail-biting, exercise, drinking coffee, eating, shopping, smoking marijuana, casual sex, media entertainment… Name any subject, and there’s likely someone who takes it too far.

In the age of video games, film, & tv streaming, reading for pleasure is not a common hobby. The average person reads about one book every 4-6 weeks. That number is as high as it is due to bookish folks. Romance readers happen to read a lot, as they average one book per week.

The Double Standard

Romance has been compared to pornography, in that both affect the way one sex views the other. While it may be true that some people need sex to make it through the day, most readers do not read romance for sex alone. There are various steam levels in romance, from merely chaste kisses to hardcore erotica. Sex is an aspect of romance; it does not define it.

Detractors of the genre claim it creates unrealistic expectations for women in relationships. Men cannot possibly live up to the standards of the hunky, heroic, alpha male protagonists.

Strangely, these criticisms are not generally made about other kinds of fiction. Superheroes, detectives, warriors, wizards, spies in action thrillers, all these tropes are fantastical. Yet few are concerned that men–the primary readers of genres featuring such characters–struggle living up to these prototypes.

It’s a double standard that has a long history.

Certainly, a reading addiction can be a problem if a person does it all day, letting life pass him or her by. The Germans even have a word for such mania: lesesucht. This term came about in the 18th century when literature was widely disseminated, allowing ordinary people to enjoy books for pleasure.

Concerns arose that if women read, they would ignore their household responsibilities. Their heads would be filled with idealistic fantasies. Reading was supposed to be for the pursuit of knowledge. It was not a way for the uneducated masses to pass their idle time.

That is a misconception rooted in elitism and classism. Reading expands a person’s ability to process information. Not all readers are on the same intellectual level, but all readers have the ability to think, to reason.

Read What Makes You Happy With No Apologies

Sweet Savage Flame is a website that is all about romance. We talk about it almost every day. However, that is just one facet of our being. We have families, hobbies, jobs, and responsibilities that mark our life. Romance enhances our time by bringing us joy and unity with other readers.

Don’t fret if you consume more books than the average person. It’s perfectly fine if all your reading is for entertainment purposes. If you pay your bills, clean your home, rear your children, work hard, and do whatever it is you must, what’s wrong with having an outlet for stress?

Enjoy what you enjoy. Never let any literary snobs make you feel shame for it. Vive la romance!

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.