I’ve really enjoyed some of the older romances that are being republished today. It allows newer romance readers like me to discover some remarkable r...moreI’ve really enjoyed some of the older romances that are being republished today. It allows newer romance readers like me to discover some remarkable romance reads that are truly timeless. It’s how I first discovered Laura Kinsale, but before accepting any offer to review a book I check it out the best that I can. I like to read the back cover copy, and an excerpt if I can to see if it might be something that I would enjoy reading...after all time is short, and no one likes to waste their precious reading time. Luckily with a book that is being republished it’s easy enough to find reviews and opinions so I was fairly confident that Moonstruck Madness would be a book I would enjoy reading because of all of the glowing recommendations...and after all the book sold over a million copies back in 1977 so it should be a great read, right? Unfortunately, all of my somewhat careful vetting let me down this time.
Moonstruck Madness follows the life of Sabrina Verrick, granddaughter to a Scottish Laird, and daughter to an English Marquis. Her story begins during the Jacobite rising in Scotland where she witnesses the defeat of her grandfather and his men and she and her two siblings along with an Aunt flee Scotland to return to England to escape most certain death, only to find an impoverished and neglected estate where they have to do whatever they can in order to provide for themselves.
At a young age Sabrina finds herself the sole provider for her family due to the absence and negligence of the only parent she has left who they haven’t seen for over twelve years. As a young woman of spirit and daring personality she creates a persona of “Bonnie Charlie” who takes from the rich who can afford it, and gives to the poor who need it, but risks the hangman’s noose every time she masquerades as the thief. While risky, she’s never felt truly in danger until she robs the wrong man, Lucien, the Duke of Camareigh who becomes single mindedly determined to catch the thief who has been terrorizing the neighborhood.
Lucien is a man resigned to the fate of marrying for reasons other than love in order to gain the inheritance that his grandmother is holding ransom. He is a man that probably suffers ennui like most titled aristocrats, until he encounters “Bonnie Charlie”. His plans for Bonnie Charlie alter when he discovers that “Charlie” is not a young lad, but in fact a beautiful young woman. A seduction ensues, and circumstances find the two married despite their love/hate relationship while escaping death more than once.
Moonstruck Madness has a much larger scope than most romances that are being written and published today. And there are times that I really miss that, but in this case I felt that the plot of the entire story was more important than the characters that the story was about. Through the course of the story it touched on so many things that I didn’t feel that any of them were adequately explored.
I also had issues with some of the transitions and pacing of the story. At times it felt that some things took too long to develop, but other times I felt that feelings or insight into a character moved too rapidly or were overlooked and I found myself stopping and re-reading passages thinking that I must have missed something, only to find that I had not which is why I felt that I was reading the book through Google preview, where certain sections or passages have been deleted because of what felt like a disjointed writing style. For instance, within a span on only 12 pages the hero of the story goes from being the enemy, to the heroine seducing him to aid in her escape, then finding that she loves him after one night of making love to him with little to no insight into her feelings and why they changed so abruptly. The reader fully understands her reasons for hating him (even though that is a strong word to use), and I never could grasp why she loved him especially since neither of their motives had altered or changed.
Sabrina and Lucien’s entire love story was a lesson in love and hate being closely related emotions and I really missed some of the internal dialogue and insight into what these characters might be thinking or feeling which you generally get in romances that are being written today. If the story would have been written today pages and pages would have more than likely been cut from the beginning. Focusing less on her ties to Scotland, which really only served as her inspiration for “Bonnie Charlie”, and more on her non existent relationship with her father. More of the heroine’s feelings would have been expressed instead of just in the actions that she took. The villains, who were fantastically self centered and evil, would have been allowed to be exceptionally bad, then dealt with adequately.
As it stands, I don’t think Moonstruck Madness translates well in the 21st century. I also don’t think it will appeal to as many of today’s romance readers in the same way it did to readers in the 1970’s despite some of the reviews you may have read. Some readers harbor a soft spot for it because it was one of the first romances that they read, but as a reader looking at it without sentimentality; I sadly found it lacking emotion, as well as character depth and growth. And while Laurie McBain created a superb cast of characters and supporting characters I didn’t feel that any of them were explored and written to their full potential as a book being published today. I really wanted to like Moonstruck Madness, and if I just looked at the overall plot of the story the idea of it is actually very good, but where it let me down was with the hero and the heroine and the reasons why they love one another. I never did fully understand the love in this romance. And for me, that is the most important thing.
This is the first book that I’ve read by Leigh Michaels. I was drawn to the concept of the three romance stories revolving around a house...kind of a...moreThis is the first book that I’ve read by Leigh Michaels. I was drawn to the concept of the three romance stories revolving around a house...kind of a “if the walls could talk” kind of intrigue.
The first of the three novellas is the story of Anne, a widowed woman who wants to safeguard herself from ever having to marry again by setting out to completely ruin her reputation. So she approaches the Earl of Hawthorne to put her in a compromising situation thus ultimately gaining the freedom she desires. Predictably they fall in love and marry despite their initial intentions, and the reader moves on to the next novella in this collection.
Felicity is the second and most interesting of all of the three heroines. As a young and impressionable woman she met a man with whom she fell in love, who seduced her then abandoned her despite his protestations of love stating that they could not marry because his family did not approve of her. She comes to London to visit her childhood friend in hopes of gaining the one thing that she feels will help her cope with the loss of the man she loved....only to find out about his lies and deception, while falling in love with his brother...the man she’s blackmailed to gain her heart’s desire. But not to worry it all works out rather easily to everyone’s ultimate happiness.
The third and final mistress of the house is Georgiana, who is the youngest and most rebellious of the three heroines. She runs away from her guardian because of an arranged marriage to a man she’s never met and does not wish to marry. She finds herself attracted to a man she finds in the garden next to the house and decides that she wants him to teach her how to be a mistress. They are wildly attracted to each other, thus less than careful and are discovered in a compromising position. Little did either of them know that what they were dreading or avoiding is exactly what they inadvertently find with each other. What are the odds?
While each of the stories in this book was slightly different, they are all similar which creates continuity between them. The heroines proposition the hero, they become intimate, they fall in love, and they marry and live happily ever after. One of the things that I enjoyed about the circumstances the heroines found themselves in was that each of them approached their hero for seduction for their own reasons. They took control of their destinies, at least to the extent that they could in the world and society that they lived in.
The stories in The Mistress House were very likeable with sweet heroines, sexy heroes who each easily fall for each other with no great obstacles to overcome, no villains, nor unfortunately any significant character growth, and therein lays the biggest issue that I had with Leigh Michael’s latest historical romance. I love romances that involve a little more heart and emotional connection, that pull the heartstrings and makes me sigh, cheer for them, cry with them, or laugh with them and I just didn’t get as much of that as what I would have liked from this book. It's possible that if each of these stories would have been it's own book instead of a novella that the characters and their emotions would have been able to be explored to a more satisfying conclusion. As it was I felt that you barely got to know them before the story ended. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t come away loving it with the desire to read it over again. That being said, The Mistress House has a pleasing style, and interesting plots that I am sure many readers will find to their liking. If you are looking for a light romantic diversion then you might find that Leigh Michael’s The Mistress House will appeal to your romance lovers heart.
Everyone Loves a Hero is the first book that I’ve read by author Marie Force, but it certainly won’t be my last. In fact as soon as I finished reading...moreEveryone Loves a Hero is the first book that I’ve read by author Marie Force, but it certainly won’t be my last. In fact as soon as I finished reading this story I was searching out her backlist like there was no tomorrow. I was addicted, and no other author would do until my romance cravings had been satisfied! You think I’m kidding? I’m not.
This book sparked what I fondly now refer to my “Force”ful reading binge as well as a gushing email to the author. The only morning after awkwardness I had was in restraining my enthusiasm and considering how I might adequately express my love for this romance novel. Let there be no doubt, I LOVED LOVED LOVED Everyone Loves a Hero and for one very big reason...the Hero. I mean how can you not love a hero who does whatever it takes to make you dreams come true and thinks that everyday with you feels like Christmas?
Olivia is a woman who hasn’t had an easy life and has had to work very hard for every thing that she has while sacrificing her personal life in order to help care for her mother with whom she has a strained relationship. You see, Olivia is so busy treading water and putting the needs of others before her own, that she has lost site of who she is. She is so used to surviving and feeling unworthy of the love of her parents that she suppresses her dreams and true desires.
That is until she meets the man of her dreams in one very delectable and more than swoon worthy Cole Langston. Except that Cole is the one that swooned at Olivia’s feet after being punched by an irate customer in a checkout line at the airport in which Olivia works. It’s pretty much love at first site for these two, and they meet whenever they can despite living in different cities and having demanding schedules to work around.
Cole immediately knows that Olivia is someone special for him and begins making changes in his previous playboy life because Olivia is the “one”. He know it very early on in their relationship. He comes on strong and is relentless in his pursuit. He’s a man who knows what he wants, and what he wants is Olivia, so he goes after it.
Olivia on the other hand has a hard time believing and understanding that Cole would reform and become a one woman man instead a one woman in every city man. She’s not used to the attention and is most definitely not used to being first in anyone’s life. She’s insecure in not only who she is as a sexual woman (Cole is her first), but as a person and she is constantly questioning if what she is feeling for Cole is too good to be true. And therein lies their problem as a couple. I think Olivia’s views of herself, her history of denying and suppressing her needs and wants so as not to be a burden, as well as her self-worth are best illustrated with this passage from the book:
“ ...Watching him, her heart ached. She wanted him. Not just physically, but that was definitely part of it. No, she wanted him. She wanted to know him, wanted to know he was hers and that she could come home to him, depend on him, be there for him.
All her life she had kept a tight rein on what she allowed herself to hope for. As a child, her Christmas and birthday lists would consist of the one item she couldn’t live without, knowing her father would find a way to get it for her. By putting more on the list, she feared not getting the one thing she desired above all of the others. She never risked asking for more than she felt she deserved.
So it was reckless of her to want this man the way she did, to place him first on the list without knowing anything more than his name, his passion for flying, and a few random facts about his family and his life. What she wanted most, though, was to always feel the way he made her feel just by lying there on the bed, humming softly to himself. Safe. Content. Alive. Finally, finally alive.”
Cole is everyone’s dream romance hero. He’s handsome, sexy, great in bed...and did I mention that he is a hero (as in saved someone’s life), and he goes to great lengths to make Olivia’s dreams come true by encouraging her to follow her passion to become an artist. With his love and support Olivia becomes the person she’s always wanted to be, but never had the courage to pursue or feel worthy of. I think that is what really resonated with me so strongly because I truly believe that the love of the right person will help you become the best version of yourself that you can be. Someone who will support your dreams and love you despite your faults. Cole is that man for Olivia. Yes they have their problems and misunderstandings most of which stem from Olivia’s insecurities (and one seriously mental ex-girlfriend), but she grows as a heroine and learns to trust in their love which ultimately leads to their happy ending.
I can’t recommend Everyone Loves a Hero highly enough. It pushed all of the right romance buttons for me. A to die for hero. A heroine who grows into someone that not only the hero can love, but that she can love too. Romance. Passion (lots and lots of passion). And Love. I hope that you read Everyone Loves a Hero and love it as much as I did because for me it was perfection! LOVE LOVE LOVE...yeah I kinda really loved this story :)
Overall: 5 stars! Sensuality level: 3.75 (about as hot as you can get without being an erotic romance IMO)(less)
The Devil’s Temptress is only the second novel from relative newcomer Laura Navarre, but rest assured her stories are far from being novice. This stor...moreThe Devil’s Temptress is only the second novel from relative newcomer Laura Navarre, but rest assured her stories are far from being novice. This story has great intrigue, betrayal, deception, and of course loves. I think it really captures how precarious life was for someone living in a royal court in this tumultuous time period.
The heroine, Alienore (not to be confused with the Queen, Eleanor), is a strong young woman in a world where most women are only chattel. Refusing to accept the match made by her brother she flees to France to become the Privy Chancellor to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alienore is pure of heart, and somewhat naive and innocent of the ways of people, yet she is surrounded by courtiers who live and breathe deception, with ulterior motives behind every deed and word. While honest in many ways she strives to deny her passionate nature due to the sins of her mother by assuming the role of the Queen’s most virtuous Lady.
Raven is her dark hero. He is darkness, just as much as Alienore is lightness. He has experienced the evil that resides in the soul of man during his Crusade, yet he has lived through those heinous and abominable acts committed against humanity. He is mysterious, brooding, and somewhat sinister...at least that is how he projects himself to others. And though he feels that he has lost all his faith in both God and humanity, and thinks that his soul, as well as his ability to love, has been eradicated...deep down where it matters most, he is strong, and honorable, and redeemable.
They are both courageous as well as champions to the causes that they believe in.
I think the author does an incredible job of creating the world that the characters live in. I thought that the character of Alienore was very intriguing, though maybe not completely believable. The reader is led to believe that she has lived a very sheltered life prior to fleeing her home and seeking shelter with the Queen, her Godmother. Because of that, I did find it a little hard to believe that she would be appointed as the Queen’s Privy Chancellor given her young age and her naiveté, despite her bravery, though it did work to the Queen’s advantage which, more than likely, is the reason for the decision to give her such an important role in the Queen’s entourage.
Unlike Ms. Navarre’s previous book, The Devil’s Mistress, which I felt was more historical fiction than romance; The Devil’s Temptress is wholeheartedly a historical romance novel. And while many outside influences drive the plot of the story, it revolves around the hero and heroine and their journey to find love with each other and within themselves. There are a few brief, yet affecting and intimate love scenes that explore their relationship, however I wish there would have been a few more revealing love scenes because I felt that it was important for Alienore’s character to explore the passion that she tries to repress because of her Mother’s infidelity. She becomes “Lady Virtue” because of this past scandal, and while The Raven tempts her to recognize the passion within herself that she ardently wishes to deny...she eventually succumbs to his seduction. I wanted to see Alienore recognize her true self because of her Devil’s love. Even though this transformation is expressed in words, I felt it would have been more powerful for the reader to have Alienore embrace this ardent part of herself, and at the same time gain some forgiveness and understanding for her Mother through this awakening.
No one can argue the importance of having a great hero and heroine, but in a story like this one, you also have to have great villains. This story has a cast of great villains! Some are really evil, others are subtly manipulative...i.e. the type of characters that you love to hate ;) At first the reader is led to believe that it is Raven, The Devil, is who Alienore should fear the most, but there are hidden enemies around almost every corner. Because of complexity of the plot revolving around the villainous characters, I felt that the ending was a bit confusing, and as a result the dramatic end didn’t have as much intensity as it could have had. There is one scene in particular, where the villains meet in private to finalize their plans that I think the reader would have benefited from being able to attend this meeting, that would have not only revealed the evil schemers and their plans, but I think it would have increased the sense of suspense and danger that awaited Alienore and Raven.
Yet, despite a slight tendency to overuse descriptive adjectives and a somewhat liberal use of purple prose, I really enjoyed The Devil’s Temptress and all of its characters. I thought the plot was captivating, with a little surprise towards the end that I did not expect involving the hero. Overall, I felt it was a very good read that any fan of historical romance is sure to enjoy. In my opinion, Laura Navarre keeps getting better with each book she writes, and I can’t wait for her next novel!