Wendy Burghe’s “Love Me Again” had all the makings of a book I should love. But I hated it.
What went so wrong? Everything was there for me to enjoy.Wendy Burghe’s “Love Me Again” had all the makings of a book I should love. But I hated it.
What went so wrong? Everything was there for me to enjoy. On a superficial level, there’s my favorite pairing of a blond hero and his dark haired lady. He’s got a kickass name: ArchDuke Varek von Vishering. Despite the 1814 time frame, the setting is not England, but Austria. He’s an arrogant nobleman who wears impressive uniforms and polished black Hessian boots and always gets what he desires. (Oh, my!)
Triple V and Christina have been married many years and are in love, but due to tragedy and duty are forced apart. Christina has suffered miscarriage after miscarriage (about six or so) so Varek is forced to divorce her and seek elsewhere for an heir. Christina refuses to stay on as his mistress and disappears to England. When they meet again, she is married to a decent, loving man with whom she has a child. But the passion, the love, exists ONLY for her VVV.
This wonderful set up should have meant a great story, but it didn’t click… Despite the intriguing premise, the writing is so blah. The wronged husband is made into a two dimensional villain who just can’t understand why his wife and mother of his child has to be so close to the ex-husband who cast her aside. Christina and Varek play a boring cat and mouse game of, “I love you, oh, no, I do not! I love you. No! Yes, I do! No I don’t!” Blech. Varek’s pet name for Christina is lark, irritating enough the first few times, but if you play a drinking game with the name, you’ll be drunk by page 39 and dead from alcohol poisoning by page 200.
And then there’s the end…(view spoiler)[ Varek is declared dead after fighting in a wintry battle with no survivors. Although his body is not recovered a funeral is held for him. In the meantime, Christina suffers through a yet another dangerous and bloody childbirth. Miraculously, despite life-threatening wounds, Varek bravely treks the harsh snows of continental Europe and finds Christina in England just in time to see her after she gives birth to their first living child. Happily ever after ensues.
But the ending was too unbelievable to be true. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies, like “Scenic Route,” “The Others,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “The Sixth Sense,” etc., where it was all a dream/ they were dead all along. The ending is ambiguous and I’m certain that Varek and Christina are dead. They meet again in heaven where they live out the life they couldn’t on earth. I may be reading way too much into it, but it’s the only logical conclusion that makes sense. If so, it’s a bold move, but that’s not what genre romances are about, at least not for me. (hide spoiler)]
Before going into this book, I had heard many diverging opinions on it; some so emphatically negative that I was certain I was going to love it in my usually perverse fashion. But I have to go with the dissenters on this one. What a shame. It should have been a thrilling ride, but wasn't.
Mollie Ashton's "Terms of Surrender" was my first Harlequin Historical, and it got me hooked to the series for a long time!
A beautiful FrMINI-REVIEW:
Mollie Ashton's "Terms of Surrender" was my first Harlequin Historical, and it got me hooked to the series for a long time!
A beautiful Frenchwoman is married to an impotent, elderly man, who desperately wants an heir. The husband hires an Englishman to seduce her and impregnate her, which Sebastian does, but not before falling in love.
The book takes place in the post-French Revolution/Napoleonic Era, one of my favorite time periods.
There is a long separation of twenty years, and towards the latter part of the book, something happens which shocked me at the time, because it was so unusual in the tame romances I read. Napoleon plays a big part in the book, too, so that's a major plus for me!
If you can get your hands on it, it's a great, emotional little treasure.
The tale of Purity Jarsy (part I) begins with the the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon's final defeat. In between weThe tale of Purity Jarsy (part I) begins with the the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon's final defeat. In between we witness the epic tale of Purity, a woman so beautiful many men desire her, they would ravish her, control her and kill for her...in other words, your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it's a good one.
Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love and later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.
Mark "You may kiss me--here" Landless is the object of Purity's devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward. Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity's honor, hurts her cruelly and the finally marries her. Her relationship with Mark is one of the weaker parts of the book, but since there are two sequels their romance will undoubtedly develop further.
Purity has many men before being with her true love, and each experience shapes her uniquely: There is a touching one night romance Purity shares with a soldier doomed to die at sea, and a sweet love affair with wounded Gypsy boxer. And many more. If the hero was more interesting, this might have detracted from the story, but since he wasn't, I just enjoyed the ride and didn't worry about the romance. As Purity says to herself (I'm paraphrasing) "She would come to Mark a complete woman." Other high points include a tawdry girl-school game with a dumb stud, a dominatrix-villainess who wears transparent gowns, and an aging duchess who makes constant fart references.
The story's pacing is a bit un-even, because most of the juicy parts are packed into the first third. But the author is skilled enough to make most of it enjoyable, even if the ending is a bit flat.
Purity's Passion is a romance only because at the end of the book the female protaganist is united with the man she loves. Otherwise, it's a soapy, door-stopper historical epic, typical of 70's and 80's. Readers-mostly women-from all walks of life used to openly enjoy these pulpy paperbacks with kaleidoskopic covers. They were taken to fantastical worlds where the heroines' beauty got men so carried away with mad lust that they'd have her...at any cost! (dun, dun, dun!) Now, not unlike tobacco cigarettes (which I never smoked), bodice rippers are banished to the darkest corners, reviled in public for the unwholesome filth they contain. Like a smoker relegated to puffing away in a cold alley, bodice ripper readers are banished to Romancelandia Siberia. And that's really a shame, because these books are a lot of fun!
**spoiler alert** There are many older romances I like out of pure nostalgia. When I re-read them I know they’re not perfect, but enjoy them neverthel**spoiler alert** There are many older romances I like out of pure nostalgia. When I re-read them I know they’re not perfect, but enjoy them nevertheless. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings first caught my attention over twenty years ago and I love it more today than I did back then. Although it’s a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in over twenty years and am always stirred by its intensity.
A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face and there’s no room for it to lag. Every character, no matter how minor--be he an innkeeper doting on his guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; or a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning over the deaths and losses incurred during the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower--every individual in this novel has a vivid sense of realism and depth.
Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow returning with her exiled family to Paris. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror and, even though her late husband was an abusive beast, she is still filled with the optimism of youth. Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a Parvenu upstart. She is an imperfect heroine, at times too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined and filled with joy.
Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel (then later a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army is the kind of hero I adore: blond, masculinely-handsome, but not pretty, a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country and a man of unrelenting honor. I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me.
Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. While his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.
The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams. Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night… If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.
This exquisite gem of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, warfare, sadness and love. It has all the components that I adore in a romance.
The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is so palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.
There is the brother vs. brother trope for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading; I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that's one I can appreciate. And if it’s between twins brothers, more so. Here, this plot point is executed in a perfect manner, for what we see is not always what is true.
There are even “bodice ripper elements” :(view spoiler)[ In a horrifying turn of events, Adam rapes Charmiane on their wedding night, after having killed her brother in a drunken duel. Adam abuses her cruelly in the early days of their marriage as he deals with the traumatic after-effects of war. The damage is done and the story unfolds in a most fascinating manner as Charmiane's love for Adam is destroyed. (hide spoiler)]
Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…yet he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This is man who has reason to cry; he has no mommy issues, no woman who hurt him in the past--there is no other woman, period. It is the awfulness of war, the meaningless deaths of his compatriots, the frozen and rotting flesh of his soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow, the depths of depravity and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for his loss of his soul… And only Charmiane can bring it back to him.
Unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate. I notice most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England, but in Medieval Europe, or set in other eras in Spain or France or Russia or the western United States. I also enjoy Civil War romances located in the American south and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. They are so rare, and rarer yet are the well-written ones. I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in the this genre and that's why I read mostly older works.
Stranger in My Arms is for me the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more, although some epics have come thisclose. Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and in doing so learn to love each other anew. This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love, set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.
There is a sequel to A Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.
Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books and every one that I have read so far is wonderful. Louisa Rawlings/Ena Halliday/Sylvia Halliday please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!
Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from the first, almost whimsical, paragraph:
“If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage. The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging. For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.”
To their last beautiful affirmation of eternal adoration:
“He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘who am I? Adam or Noel?’
“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out. ‘Oh, my dearest,’ she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. ‘You’re Love.’”
**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