The Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is typical of many of the bodice rippers that glutted the market in the 70’s and early 80’s. The heroine goes thro...moreThe Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is typical of many of the bodice rippers that glutted the market in the 70’s and early 80’s. The heroine goes through so many horrific tragedies--attempted rape, starvation, war, death of loved ones, betrayal, disease, imprisonment, beatings and whippings--that would make the average woman end up looking like a faces of meth poster. However, no matter how battered and bruised, how emaciated, how lice-infested her hair, how filthy and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world: Augusta Raleigh, she of the emerald eyes and raven curls.
On July 4, 1774 Augusta seals her fate when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army. The story starts out promisingly, as it’s lust at first sight for the Redcoat officer and the Patriot girl. Then a harsh reality hits: the writing is terrible! Phrases are redundantly repeated, followed by contradictory thoughts in the same sentence. Sometimes conversations are summarized, other times there’s nothing but dialogue, and you can’t tell what’s going on as scenes blend into one another.
But the plot, as convoluted as it is, is interesting.
David is an unapologetic man-slut dog. He courts Augusta but intends to love her and leave her. His first time with Augusta goes something like this:
“Hey baby...I just saved you from being raped. How’s about a little thank you?”
“How’s about I rape you?”
When she visits him at headquarters and finds him entertaining a woman in bed, Augusta leaves in anger, but paragraphs later, he’s seducing her! He’s a wonderful cad, but as is so often in these books, they are separated for a significant portion of this short 346 paged novel.
After a life-changing heartbreak, Augusta is off to war. She disguises herself as a boy, wraps those boobs up tight and spends a year (years?) marching and camping with lots of men. Hmm…what could possibly go wrong with that?
She fights bravely at the Battle of Long Island, killing all Redcoats in sight and saves her best friend, Tad. Young and gay, he--like so many men--falls in love with her. Dressed as a boy, Augusta’s powers of seduction are irresistible; all men are attracted to her: gay, straight, bisexual. This was definitely a gender-bending read, and at times Augusta flirts heavily with transgenderism:
“What will I be? What will I do? I will have destroyed myself as a woman. The gentleness and softness that men find so appealing will be gone. Yet I can never be a man. I will be neither fish nor fowl…”
Part Deborah Samson, part Scarlet O’Hara, part Mata Hari, and part Helen Reddy, Augusta spends years in search of revenge and love. She experiences the “cruel sexual humiliation of lustful men” (at least that what the cover says) before she gets her happy ending.
The bodice ripper highlights include: attempted rape, forced seduction, heroine dressing as a boy, whippings galore, man on teen-boy sex, oral sex, anal sex…yep it’s tawdry. Is it any good? Well, it wasn’t horrible. It had its moments.
Divided Heart waffles between being a tasteless, balls-to-wall bodice ripper and a dry historical lesson of the early battles in the American Revolution. Angelica Aimes isn’t talented enough to pull off the history part; she should stick to the trashy side. Apparently after writing bodice rippers, Aimes wrote several novelizations of The Young The Restless so that about sums it up. (I’m not knocking soaps, as a young’un I watched them all, Y&R included, and remember plots like Lauren being buried alive by that crazy wacko and then losing her & Paul’s baby…wow I feel old.)
At times Divided Heart feels rushed, more like a summary of a book than a real book. Important events are glossed over, scenes transition oddly, it’s just a mess. But I can overlook bad writing, if the plot’s to my liking. In this case, sort of. Divided Heart rates as a 2 ½ star read or a C-/D+. I wish Goodreads had half-stars, because despite being a horribly-written book, it’s not without its trashy charm.
**spoiler alert** Wow…what an experience! “Edin’s Embrace” by Nadine Crenshaw is a Zebra Lovegram romance published in way back in 1989. With a shimme...more**spoiler alert** Wow…what an experience! “Edin’s Embrace” by Nadine Crenshaw is a Zebra Lovegram romance published in way back in 1989. With a shimmering Pino Daeni cover featuring a muscled guy who looks a lot like Fabio, embracing a blonde on a Viking ship (spot the horse on the cover!) this could just have been another ho-hum romance.
But it’s not.
This is how the tale begins:
“The world was a colder, darker place then. It was an axe age, a wind age, a time when men didn’t dare give mercy, and a time when the powerful exacted what they could and the weak granted what they must.”
Ok, that definitely piqued my interest.
However, the affect is spoiled in the next paragraph with a glaring misspelling (the word hardier instead of heartier). There are a lot of typos in this book, which is a shame, as such a good book deserved more cautious edition. Crenshaw diligently tries to portray the authenticity of the Viking era, and sticks to historical facts. This book borrows heavily from the Icelandic sagas... setting the stage for Vikings as pitiless warriors. The heroine is a lady, not the clichéd young girl trained by her father as boy in the arts of war. I’ve never read a Viking book with such authenticity…making sure that it was noted which helmets were worn when, the importance of bathing, the treatment of slaves. Slaves are to have their hair shorn, and they are to be killed if they try to escape. When Thoryn has neither of these things done to Edin, it is a cause of strife amongst is peoples.
What I really appreciate is that there is no other woman for Throyn (except for a brief encounter with a prostitute), no other great love of his. He is a primal force of a man, and love is not part of his mentality. “What is love?” Is a phrase often queried here. Sometimes this book gets quite philosophical about the nature of man and woman and their bonds together. Women are a biological need for Thoryn, but they before Edin came along, they offered little in terms of mental stimulation and affection. With her he becomes a better man and a better lover.
There is a scene where Thoryn approaches a Viking friend and asks him if women enjoy sex, and if they do, how can men go about pleasing them? Despite’s his friend’s poor advice, Thoryn learns how to please Edin and he she in turn pleases him. Their passion however soon turns into what could be a doomed love.
There’s a lot of introspection than action here, far more than I usually enjoy, but somehow in Edin’s Embrace it works. Edin and Thoryn are two very deep individuals whose lives and souls are drawn together.
One thing I wasn’t crazy about was Edin’s failure to accept her place in the violent Viking world. At the end Edin convinces Thoryn to basically say, “Hey, let’s eff this Viking pillaging stuff, and move to Constantinople to become merchants.” That might seem a bit odd, as I have no qualms when a gunslinger hangs up his guns and becomes a rancher, or a pirate stops raiding and becomes a plantation owner. But when a one of the most hardcore Viking heroes I‘ve ever read about hangs up his sword, it made me a bit sad. I knew it would ensure for Edin the stability she required, but it made the ending less perfect for me.
Despite its authentic, violent, stark Viking feel, I do have to admit that there were a few anachronisms. The mentions of potatoes and squash threw me out of the authenticity for a moment. When a Muslim trader mentions that Constantinople was founded in the year 300 AD (Anno Domino, In the Year of our Lord Jesus Christ), I wondered why he just didn’t say it was founded about 600 years ago, instead. And as I said, there were so many typos for a book printed and edited in 1988. These are minor gripes, and I fault the editor in this. Crenshaw did try her damned best to make this as accurate as possible.
As a reader of historical romance, I have always been searching for that great the great Viking romance. I still rate Johanna Lindsey’s “Fires of Winter” a 5 star read, because for that 13 year old girl who read it, that was a 5 star read. I’m not the kind of reader who looks back at books she enjoyed and said well, I don’t like them now. However, 23 years later, I’ve changed as a person and a reader. I need something different. Something more hardcore. While "Edin’s Embrace” comes close, but it’s not perfect. Nevertheless I loved it.
This is the scene that won me over in this book, and made me realize I was not reading another tame, ho-hum Viking book:
There he held her. She felt the sword point keenly. She became aware of her ribs beneath it, how delicate the bones were how easily they could be pierced.
“I’m waiting thrall! What say you know?”
She whispered, “I-I am free, a nobleman’s daughter.”
Why was she doing this? He had no scruples against murder—he’d already murdered Cedric before her very eyes!
“You suffer from unnatural belief in your own immortality,” he answered softly...Quickly another sword appeared. She looked from Thoryn to the sword Rolf held out to her.
“Take it!” The jarl stepped back half a pace, removing his sword point from her breast, yet not removing it.…She took the sword from Rolf with both hands. Even so, as soon as he released it, its point fell almost to the floor. She struggled to bring it up again, but couldn’t raise it even to the height of her waist…
“Lift it!” he said. He waved his own weapon as if it were a twig. “All it takes is a good arm.” She saw the sinews in his forearm, the muscles rippling. “It’s Rolf’s own sword, a good killing blade…If you aren’t my thrall you’ll lift it and defend your claim. I say your mine, my property to dispose of as I see fit. Prove to me I’m wrong!" She stood as she was, her arms and shoulders and back trembling in effort of keeping the heavy sword point from falling to the floor completely.
“Well?” He was like a dragon in his fury, rending and unreasonable. Those who resisted, he would always mercilessly overcome, if not with his muscles then with the tremendous strength of his mind and purpose.
“You know I can’t fight you.”
“Come,” the jarl said dryly, lowering his sword. “Take it; charge me with it. I know you can kill if you want to.”
“You killed Ragnarr.”
He made a sound of contempt. “You are a race of slaves, you Saxons.”
Her gaze dropped to somewhere near his feet. She wanted to cry, but somehow kept the sobs held in.
“I’m challenging you—fight me, my lady!”
“I can’t fight you, Viking, as well you know.”
“Aye,” he said slowly, lowering his weapon at last, “as well I know.”
Her gaze lifted again, all the way to his face. “But I will never be your slave,” she said stubbornly.
This time he reacted with immediate anger, the most parlous kind of anger, the kind born of frustration. The jerk of his head told her of his ire, and her breath froze at the cold flare of temper in his eyes. In an instant, he became fearsome, furious mad. His mighty sword swung again, and he closed in. There was an ice storm rampaging in his eyes. The flat of his sword lifted her chin, until she was looking at him down its long gilt and silver length. All he said now was, “Slave or sword point?”
The flames snapped in the fire pit behind her. The cold, steel point pricking her throat never moved the slightest. For an immeasurable extent of time she stood perfectly still, living in a state of strain. She searched for an answer. And impaled on his gaze, feeling all those wild and hungry eyes on her, something of her pride broke inside her. In the end she could only whisper: “Slave”
Zebra Historical Romances are pretty much a thing of the past, but for a while in the 80’s and 90’s, those dazzling romances would line shelves in dru...moreZebra Historical Romances are pretty much a thing of the past, but for a while in the 80’s and 90’s, those dazzling romances would line shelves in drugstores and be piled into bargain bins in supermarkets. Now they’re something only hardcore romance lovers recall fondly.
The covers would hypnotize with bright shades of red, pink, gold and purple swirls. The embossed foil titles glittered with adjectives like “Wild,” “Seductive,” “Scarlet,” ”Violet,” & “Amber" or nouns like “Temptation,” “Vixen,” “Ecstasy,” “Angel” or “Passion.” Often you’d get a state thrown in the title, like: “Colorado Temptation,” “Texas Star,” “Dakota Destiny,” “Wild Wyoming Love” or “California Caress.” The best covers would have a horse rearing in the background, (or a bird, a ship or a mansion) plus a pink or purple flower opening up in euphemistic symbolism.
Sadly, too often the covers would be the best thing about the books. In this case, it’s certainly the best thing about Jolene Prewit-Parker’s “Sweet Stolen Passion.” And for a Zebra Lovegram, the cover’s rather ho-hum, except for the heroine’s satiny, green dress and the pink-orange lilies in the foreground. (And I loathe the hero’s hair. It’s an anachronistic floppy 1990’s style that might look cute on a 13-year-old boy, but on a grown man makes him look like a villainous, preppy douche.)
Why spend so time discussing the cover? Because like I said, it’s the best part of “Sweet Stolen Passion,” a book as exciting as waiting in that line at the DMV to get a ticket to wait on another line.
Set in the late 1600’s in France, England, and the High Seas, Ameran is a French girl living near the coast and Grayson (shouldn’t that be Greyson?) is commander of King Charles Navy who passes by her home. That’s right, he’s not merely a well-respected Captain, but Admiral of the whole British Naval Fleet. His age is never mentioned, but he’s mid-thirties as most.
Meanwhile, Ameran is of mysterious parental heritage and knows her father was an important man whom her mother at French court. Now, Ameran is orphaned, living alone and a debauched Duke wants her in his bed. Since she won’t let him touch her, he declares her a witch, and villagers rush to burn her. Maybe Ameran is a witch, or maybe she isn’t; I don’t remember, nor did I care!
Ameran and Gray declare their boring love for each other, cue stupid misunderstanding, cue separation, cue boring reunion...and the book’s still got 75% left to go. There is a villain who wants Ameran, and a villainess who wants Gray (what a perfect name for a bland, dull hero). The villainess makes no sense. She is a crazily obsessed woman, who has had minimal, if any contact with the hero. She’s just there. Gideon, the villain, an old friend of Gray’s, has turned pirate and lusts for Ameran, and is the most interesting character in the book. Either the author or the editor thought so as well, because Gray is often called by Gideon’s name.
Gray was lackluster and bland. How can a woman swoon at such lyrical poetry as:
Gray: “Have no fear my love. I intend to do all in my power to insure your comfort and happiness forever more."
Ameran: "You're too kind to me."
Gray: "Nay, my darling, I haven't begun to show you the magnitude of my love for you."
Gray: “What is it you feel to compel to unburden from your soul? Have I done something which angered or offended you? If I have, I beg your forgiveness & will make immediate restitution."
Gray: "I can truthfully swear to you that even though I love you with all my heart, come dawn I shall love you even more."
Oh spoiler, which I don’t care about spoiling: It turns out poor, peasant Ameran, is actually the daughter of the English king. Whoop-de-freakin-do.
Seriously, if, like me, you’re a hard-core Zebra fan with an OCD-like need to read through the entire catalogue, do yourself a favor, read the back blurb which is far more exciting than the actual book, take a gander at the cover, and if you really need to, read the last chapter (two pages long) and consider yourself done. This was so tedious! I do not know why I continued reading, except that I must be a committed masochist, who believes if you're going to do something stupid and painful, why not go the whole way?
Gray says to Ameran, that he hopes her time spent with him was worth it: “Just as long as I’m not boring you.”
Sorry, bud, way too late for that.
At least Ameran has some interesting lines, like telling Gray:
“Promise me I’ll always be your booty.”
In my life I’ve spend countless hours on the phone, on hold with businesses, government offices, and utility, phone & credit card companies, forced to listening to static-y music, while idly doodling pictures of cats, or picking grit out from under my nails with a paperclip. All that time spent was more enthralling than reading this boring as shit book.