**spoiler alert** So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, I finally got around to Stormfire. Whew! They do not write them like this anymore.**spoiler alert** So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, I finally got around to Stormfire. Whew! They do not write them like this anymore. The ultimate in bodice ripping, Stormfire is a tale of two mentally unstable people and their violent, intense love. And it's great!
The main attraction about Stormfire is its writing. If it was a poorly written book no one would still be talking about it 20-plus years after it was published. The chapters each have their own titles such as "Silken Irons," "Into Eden," or "The Nadir." When the heroine meets the hero her first thoughts are of Milton's poetry: "His form had not yet lost/All his original brightness, nor appeared/Less than Archangel ruined..." The prose is evocative and compelling, but not purple. We agonize with Catherine's enslavement, we feel the angry passion between the lovers, we grieve with Catherine's loss, and suffer with Sean's torture...how much misery can two people take? Then there is that intense love/hate. I wish writers of historical romances today wrote like this, deeply and intensely, if not necessarily the same plot.
But then, maybe I'm a sicko, but I like the plot. Yes, it's epic and melodramatic: everything but the kitchen sink is in the plot including SPOILERS***: kidnapping, rape, starvation, forced slavery, multiple marriages, miscarriage, insanity, beatings, brothers fighting for the same woman, incest, castration, forcible sodomy, murder.... To be honest, I wasn't comfortable with a lot of things in the book. Even so, Stormfire is enthralling. Even those who hate this book can't say it's boring.
There are a lot of detractors of Stormfire, so in its defense, I'll say this: this isn't a sweet romance; it's a historical romance novel, a bodice ripper, and I use the term with great affection. It's a fantasy. A dark one, definitely, but then some might say so are the vampire, werewolf, bestiality, BDSM, menage fantasies of today. This is a different kind of fantasy, where the greatest hate in the world can be turned into love. Would this relationship work in real life? Probably not. That's why it's a fantasy. Stormfire is very entertaining, emotional and unforgettable. It falters a bit towards the end, so it's not perfect. It's not the best romance novel ever written, but for me, it's up there. I'd give it 5 stars or an A- rating. ...more
**spoiler alert** In Rosemary Rogers' "The Wildest Heart" Lady Rowena is a beautiful woman who's valued by many men for her beauty or her wealth, or b**spoiler alert** In Rosemary Rogers' "The Wildest Heart" Lady Rowena is a beautiful woman who's valued by many men for her beauty or her wealth, or both. She was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. Rowena was indifferent to men; despite their passion for her, she could not love anyone except outlaw Lucas Cord. For Lucas, Rowena was willing to renounce her inheritance or even die with him in the perilous mountains. Despite his conflicted past, Lucas was the only man to love Rowena for herself alone (view spoiler)[ although he did say Ro reminded him of the other woman he loved, she was just colder (hide spoiler)].
The negatives aspects:
If “The Wildest Heart” hadn't been written primarily in a 1st person diary format, I would have LOVED it for the epic range of emotion and intrigue. It would have been a thrill ride on a par with Rogers’ other great bodice rippers “Sweet Savage Love” & “Wicked Loving Lies.” As much as I understood and loved Rowena, she was the overwhelming focus of this book and I needed other perspectives.
Although the main reason I read romance is for the love story, what really matters to me is heroine’s travails. I can enjoy a great romance novel about a heroine’s struggles through life and the hero can be relegated to the background while the heroine grows and matures. In a way "The Wildest Heart" is one of those books and normally I would love this, but Rogers is too passionate a writer to keep the main man as just the prize the heroine wins at the end for completing her journey.
On top of that, it was too long. I know WLL was longer, but every page of that novel was packed with action and I couldn't wait to see what WTFery occurred next. Here the 1st person POV hinders this book because by default there is going to be a lot more introspection on one character’s part than action overall.
The only trope I despise more in a romance than a hero who is constantly weeping over his dead wife or lover is a Mama’s boy. Now Lucas is no Mama’s boy, but the fact that he’s obsessed and in love with the woman he thought was his mother as a boy only to find she’s just a stepmother puts him in a weird gray category until the end of the book.
The bewitching Elena is much older, but doesn’t look it. (Wouldn’t it be nice for once if the sexy older woman actually looked like a sexy older woman rather than always preternaturally young?) Lucas was a lonely boy raised by the Apache then taken in by his Mexican father who had no love for him. Elena manipulated him and gave him love when he never had known any before. She taught him to hate Todd Shannon, part owner of the SD Ranch. But this was all heard by Rowena. I think if I had seen or read about it through Lucas’s eyes I’d appreciate his story more and thus feel more satisfied overall.
It would have been fine if interspersed with Rowena’s diary entries there would have been other character’s perspectives, but to have only the prologue and epilogue be 3rd person was a huge mistake. With a book this long of such a grand scope...I needed more than just Rowena’s thoughts.
One thing I’m certain about is that Rebecca Brandewyne’s read this novel, for I can see the influences of “The Wildest Heart” in Brandewyne’s magnum opus, “Love Cherish Me.” It’s all there: the grand scope of a western epic, the fast-shootin’ cowboy of Spanish descent raised among the Indians who speaks with a pronounced Western drawl, the black-haired heroine on her way west to an unknown future, the powerful, older rancher who demands the heroine’s hand in marriage, the rancher’s younger relative who loves the heroine and fools her into thinking he’s a good guy. Then, of course, the murder trial at the end, the scandalous couple united against the world and the epilogue as they head into town with their children, while the townspeople wag their tongues about their past shocking antics. But I adored “Love Cherish Me.” It’s one of my top 10 bodice rippers, along with a couple of other Rogers’ books. For me, “The Wildest Heart” doesn’t reach that level of adoration.
Why not? Well, for one, for such a smart woman, Rowena certainly made some stupid decisions. Like not ignoring her dead Father’s urgent request to read his diaries because she was too lazy. Sloth is certainly my favorite sin, but she could have just skipped to the end of those diaries and taken a gander at what it was all about. Then there was her dumb mistake to trust the obviously telegraphed villain.
Now the positives:
When it came to Elena vs. Rowena that was awesome. I wanted more Rowena-Elena showdowns. Two alpha women fighting not just for a man but for power over everything. I love a great villainess; it makes the heroine stronger. As I said, I appreciated Rowena’s cold character, which was her coping mechanism to deal with a crazed life. She was certainly passionate where Lucas was concerned. (view spoiler)[ So it wasn’t such a shock that the only other man to make Rowena feel a hint of passion was Lucas’ true daddy. (hide spoiler)] I also appreciate that there’s no annoying gypsy dancing on Rowena’s part. (A heroine dancing like a gypsy in a Rogers novel is akin to a woman from the British Isles beings captured and enslaved in a harem for Bertrice Small. It’s what they do.)
The climax of the book was thrilling as in the last chapters Lucas and Rowena head into the mountains to flee from her wicked husband and fight off armed soldiers. Then there is that wonderful epilogue where we finally get to see Lucas’s opinions. How much more fabulous would this have been if we had been allowed to know more of Lucas’ thoughts! Or if not his thoughts, then witness his actions without Rowena present or hearing of them second-hand.
The ending did make up for the first third where Lucas was nowhere to be found. I adored this passage near the finale:
They looked into each other’s faces; searching, renewing, re-evaluating. It was as if, without words, Rowena was saying: “I love you, and I have chosen you. There is room in our lives for other people too, now that we are sure of each other.”
This was a tumultuous read, but I can’t say I loved it.
3 ½ stars bumped up to 4 because Goodreads doesn’t do 1/2 stars and I can’t give the same star rating to this as I did to Rogers’ much lesser work, “Surrender to Love.”
(I have long ago put this book in storage, and it’s too much of a pain to dig out, but before I forget it all, here’s a review):
(I have long ago put this book in storage, and it’s too much of a pain to dig out, but before I forget it all, here’s a review):
Anne Carsley’s “This Triumphant Fire” is an ok bodice ripper with a more interesting villain than hero. The heroine is a beautiful French girl living off the charity of her English guardians. If I recall correctly, the hero is a rakish fellow who is having a romance with one the daughters in the family. He also has a secret life as a highwayman. After a brutal rape attempt by one of the sons, the heroine kills her attacker and flees in to the night. The h & H meet again, and he takes her to his cabin in the woods. They make passionate love and spend an idyllic time together before the hero abandons her. The heroine catches him cheating on her with another woman. She confronts him, and in typical jerky-hero style he is unrepentant.
They are separated and she finds her the way on a ship to the American south, where she enters in a marriage of convenience with a suave, attractive, older man. Her husband is virile in the bedroom but only needs her for her womb, as he prefers hot voodoo lovemaking sessions with his male lover. The heroine is eventually taken to the harsh jungles of Haiti where she is saved by the hero who shows up out of the blue. While Carsely’s prose was very poignant and romantic, I remember enjoying this book for everything EXCEPT the love story. The villain was magnetic, and the action-packed pacing combined with the author’s style of writing were strong points, but not enough to make this one a favorite.
One pet-peeve/minor factoid: the cover portrays the heroine with the wrong hair color--she’s got reddish hair not black; Carsely also had the same issue with her lovely cover of “This Ravished Rose.”
**spoiler alert** "You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you."
Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters**spoiler alert** "You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you."
Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters' first book, "Savage Surrender," although the relation between the books is not revealed until midway through this 630 page epic.
Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans 12 years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman. Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, she lies to herself, she even lies on her (near) deathbed! She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife and a whole chicken! When caught red handed she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter who lives by the motto: "Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter accusations."
Rhawnie is not just a mere mortal...she is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, a card cheat, men duel and die over her, she is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman's power, a baroness, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, savior of an orphan and a wronged woman, and the love-object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.
The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work and it took me a long time to warm up to him. He’s no Sean Culhane or Domenico, but he's both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie's virginity in a card game, but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. In angry retaliation, Rhawnie gets beaten and kicked by her lecherous older uncle and Seth just sort of stands there. Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her--even though he's in the next room and can hear what's going on. He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress. And what Seth does in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice which never occurs. But he does properly declare himself at the end and gives himself completely to Rhawnie. Seth is not perfect; but neither is Rhawnie, so together they are perfect.
Dangerous Obsession is written in first person, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances. However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and could have been 50 pages shorter. Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth's missing sister that takes them through the American west. They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river, Seth gets injured and Rhawnie nurses him back to life, Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment on camphor, cannabis and caviar, no less). They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures, she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, addicted to laudanum, gets rescued...and before you know it--whew!--it's over.
This book was so close to perfect, but like so many bodice rippers, at the end it falters under its own hefty weight. It's a 4 1/2 star read, but I'm rounding it up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome. A-.
This book review has been provided by the No Book Left Behind Campaign! A Bodice Ripper Readers Anonymous group initiative to review the un-reviewed! ...more
Written in 1983, this full length novel was anachronistic even for it's day. The heroine is 17, the hero is 33. Ruth is raised on a small Caribbean isWritten in 1983, this full length novel was anachronistic even for it's day. The heroine is 17, the hero is 33. Ruth is raised on a small Caribbean island by her elderly father and is so sheltered she makes your typical Harlequin Presents heroine look like a fusion of Skye O'Malley & Anita Blake. Ruth rescues a stranger when he washes ashore after a shipwreck. A couple of stolen moments later, she's in love and they consummate their relationship. Then Dominic--he's the hero--drops the anvil: he's engaged and has no intention of dumping his fiancee!
Fast-forward to England a few months later. Dominic pursues Ruth while still engaged. Oh yeah, they're gonna do it again.
He's a complete dog, but I guess I like jerk heroes, because I really enjoyed this one. What's interesting about this is that the first half of the book is purely from the heroine's perspective and the second is mostly the hero's. Mather's writing was at her best here. If you like cheesy romances--and I do--it's a keeper. (B+/A- or 4 1/2 out of 5 stars) ...more
**spoiler alert** “Tara’s Song” by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late 70’s at the heig**spoiler alert** “Tara’s Song” by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late 70’s at the height of the bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking Romance to rapacious and fun, but I found it rather ho-hum.
Having been betrayed by love (the h is not a virgin), stunning blonde Tara enters into a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is actually not a novice, but a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows. For some mysterious reason, some of her fellow nuns ensure that Tara study the pagan Nordic runes. Obviously the elder sisters knew their convent would be overtaken by a horde of ravenous Vikings and runic readings would come in handy for protection later on.
Tara's new life begins when she is captured by Rorik. He, of the long, curly reddish-blond hair and two long mustaches that reach past his chin, but no beard. I imagine him as a young metal god like a cross between Dave Mustaine & James Hetfield, only with lots of muscles. But alas, even though Rorik is a marauder, he’s BORING. As in so many Viking books I‘ve read, the hero is a bad ass warrior who kills and slays hundreds… But we rarely see Rorik do any of this (as it’s told in constrictive first person perspective.)
The first person POV is really a hindrance here. Tara tells rather than shows and there’s a lot of info dumping and information overload, some so very inaccurate, like eating potatoes in Norway in the 900’s. (Reminded me of the chocolate-colored eyes of the OW in Johanna Lindsey’s “Hearts of Fire.” Research people. It’s a basic thing.) The Vikings were also portrayed as dirty and unkempt, never bathed, with un-groomed beards and wore clichéd two-horned helmets in battle.
Anyway, Rorik doesn’t force himself on Tara like a pillaging Viking would; at first he romantically seduces her into his bed. Meh. Give me a Viking who’s a pillager FIRST, then learns to be romantic and civilized later on (to a certain extent). Where’s the fun in the fantasy if the hunky Viking doesn’t take me--er, I mean, the heroine--over his shoulder and have his wickedly erotic way with her on sight? Why does he have to charm her into bed? That’s for Regency rakes, not Vikings.
At least there is a naughty twist: Rorik is a polygamist and he takes Tara home to his harem of wives. That’s right, Rorik has not one but two wives and Tara is number three. As a pious Christian former nun, she resents this. So she prays for the day that Rorik will cast off his other wives, divorce them and be with only her, because that that would the honorable thing. For her. When Tara won’t give into Rorik’s lust, he just goes to the other wives to satisfy him. But it’s Tara he loves!
Eventually, one of Rorik’s wives plots against them, and Rorik and Tara are kidnapped and separately sold into slavery into the east.
When the hero is boring, and the h/H are parted for a long time in the book, I don’t mind as long as the heroine is up to fun adventures. Regrettably, Tara’s adventures fall a bit flat.
At least with lesser-known bodice ripper authors like Melissa Hepburn or Janette Seymour there were some amusing exploits... Here Tara’s escapades consist of getting the flu during the worst winter ever, or getting her first taste of eating oranges... There’s Tara in Norway shopping; now there’s Tara in Constantinople shopping!
The most interesting character in the book is Olav, an older Viking who has also been captured, as well as castrated, and is Tara’s faithful companion. He could have been a complex character, but alas, Ferry takes his personality, heart and emotions away with his balls, and his sole devotion to Tara is that of a slavish, dog-like protector, not a man who can ever physically or even emotionally love. It would have been intriguing to see, just for the WTF factor (like Bertrice Small’s “Enchantress Mine”) but no, nothing special in this book.
Actually, that’s not 100% true, as there is one mildly engaging scenario when Tara gets kidnapped, and then is willingly seduced by a handsome and haughty overbearing lord. Although she enjoys his lovemaking, she finds him so arrogant; how dare he lust for her body so! Just days later, she is dismayed to see a sexy young male slave dance his way into her lover’s bed. Guess Tara’s not as hot as she thinks! (Again, a faintly similar situation was portrayed in “Enchantress Mine,” although in a much more shocking and entertaining fashion--and I wasn’t crazy about "EM" because I hated the heroine--so to me, “Tara’s Song” is the lesser book.)
O, ancient gods of the Norse! At times this book was as dry as the turkey from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
However…It does get good in the last few pages where Rorik once and for all displays his brutal warrior skills, instead of us just being told about it. He cruelly dispatches his enemies in a slaughter, demonstrating his true awesome Nordic might. Too bad; too late. Where was that Rorik 400 pages ago?