Saturday, February 17, 2018

Virginia Henley’s THE PIRATE AND THE PAGAN: Enthralling Story of Love and Deception—a Pirate Romance to treasure—a Keeper!

This is a wonderfully complex tale of deception and love set in 17th century in the Restoration period when Charles II ruled England.

Lady Summer St. Catherine is an innocent, but not very lady-like. She was raised on the Cornish coast with her younger brother, Spencer (nicknamed Spider). Their mother is dead and their father is a wastrel, who spends all their money and all his time in London. The two are left quite alone and cannot afford food, much less a servant. When Summer and Spider stumble into a smuggling opportunity, they take advantage of it in order to survive.

Soon after, their father dies and Summer goes to London to stay with their aunt (a wonderful character). There, Summer learns her father has mortgaged away their beloved home, Roseland. Her aunt, who is teaching her to be a lady, convinces her the way out of her troubles is to marry a wealthy man. Summer takes on the role of a lady and sets her cap for the neighboring Cornish lord, Ruark Helford, a friend of the king. She manages to win Ruark’s affections and both fall in love. Ruark has no idea his new bride is a smuggler and when she confesses, his violent temper destroys their relationship. But Ruark’s younger brother, Rory, a pirate, will come to Summer’s rescue providing her all the love she can no longer have from Ruark.

Henley weaves an intriguing story of love and deception in an interesting time in the history of England. And she does it so well. She includes many rich historical details of the court of Charles II, including some infamous characters and lots of steamy love scenes. Summer is a clever, courageous heroine who must deal with Ruark’s over-the-top temper—and does. I loved this book.

Henley is a master of historic romance. Few romance writers today bring such rich (and accurate) historical detail to their novels. This is a well-told pirate tale. I highly recommend it.       

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Marti Ziegler’s WATERMARK – River pirates!

An unusual story, cleverly told that will take you down a flatboat on the Mississippi to New Orleans.

Set in 1828, beginning in St. Louis, this is the story of Juno Brock, a young widow who meets a dangerous criminal on the street who threatens her to get her to deliver a package. She believes it has to do with counterfeiting but since she can’t read, she doesn’t know what is written on the directions he gives her. Instead, she sells her hair for the passage north to Michigan Territory to join her mother.

Reunited with her mother and her father-in-law, who runs a riverboat store, river pirates attack them on the Mississippi River leaving her in the wilds of Michigan Territory with flatboat pilot Malcolm Moreau. He agrees to give Juno safe passage to Natchez, Mississippi, in exchange for the information she gained from the criminal she met in St. Louis, a man Moreau has been hunting for some time.

As Juno and Malcolm travel the Mississippi, they have many adventures and come to appreciate how right they are for each other. But Malcolm is reluctant to give his heart. So, of course, he bungles it.

Great writing makes this story flow effortlessly and Malcolm’s riverboat crew are a delightful bunch of characters. Historical details reflect solid research into the era and the riverboat life.

A great adventure… You will love it!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Short History of Valentines by Regan Walker

Though St. Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for a very long time, the Valentine’s Day cards we send today, and their romantic precursors with pictures, real lace and ribbons, didn’t really come into fashion until the mid 19th century with the Victorian era. However, that didn’t mean that lovers in earlier eras didn’t observe the day. Of course, they did.

I don’t doubt that since the beginning of human history, lovers have found a way to send each other notes of their love. But Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love by presenting flowers, offering confectionery and sending notes, sometimes in verse. By then, too, the heart was a symbol of love. In the mid 17th century, Samuel Pepys recorded the celebration, including gift giving among the wealthier members of society.
Geoffrey Chaucer “Courtly Love”
The writing of special notes and letters for Valentine’s Day gained widespread popularity as early as the 18th century. The modern cliché Valentine's Day poem we remember comes from this time and the collection of English nursery rhymes Gammer Gurton's Garland (1784):

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.

By the time we arrive in Regency England, nearly three decades later, the romantic communications would have been handwritten on ordinary writing paper and may have included verse and other small items of sentimental value. Writing paper could have been procured from Hatchard’s Book Shop and other shops that stocked such items. The love notes would have been exchanged between only unmarried adults, unlike today when we send Valentines to everyone.

Hatchard's Book Shop
Papers made especially for Valentine’s Day greetings didn’t begin to be marketed until the 1820s when their use became fashionable in both Britain and the United States. According to Hone’s Every-Day Book (1826): “Two hundred thousand letters beyond the usual daily average, annually pass through the two penny post-office in London on St. Valentine's Day.”

A stint playing Portia at the Theatre-Royal at Haymarket in London, a dropped valentine and a dangerous desire…

“A great short story of suspense and romance; I loved it and can't wait to read more by Ms. Walker.” — Sinfully Tasty Reads

In my Valentine’s Day story, The Shamrock & The Rose, set in London in 1818, the heroine, Rose Collingwood, has assumed another identity in order to play the part of Portia in The Merchant of Venice at the Theatre-Royal Hay-Market. She has many admirers and receives many such love notes from her adoring fans.

At one point a character notes that Hatchard’s bookshop is “nearly sold out of writing paper” trying to accommodate its customers’ demands for supplies to create the love notes.

Rose receives several love poems from a mysterious man who does not sign his notes, a man who would have her against her will.

One whimsical love poem delights her. It’s from the Irish barrister Morgan O’Connell, who has taken a fancy to the beautiful woman he has discovered is the very actress he so admired one night at the theater.

In the spirit of those long ago lovers, try making your own Valentine! And celebrate the day in Regency London with The Shamrock & The Rose!

Monday, February 12, 2018

What I Learned About Love From Reading Romance Novels by Regan Walker

Girl Reading by Charles Edward Perugini

There is much to be gained from reading a romance novel. It can be more than just a good story to curl up with on a rainy night. For those of us who love the sweeping historical sagas, there can be lessons in love as well as history to be learned.

Some authors even give us definitions, as Virginia Henley in Dream Lover: “Love is a journey from the first blush of physical attraction to a marriage of souls”

If I ever write a book about this, the list below may well be my chapter titles. For now, here’s the skinny version.

What I Learned About Love From Reading Romance Novels
1.     Love is worth fighting for.
2.     Love is worth waiting for.
3.     Love isn’t for cowards; it means being vulnerable; sometimes it means pain.
4.     The most difficult person may be the most perfect for you.
5.     Men of great character are secure enough to choose a strong, successful woman.
6.     In great strength is gentleness when accompanied by unselfish love.
7.     When a man is jealous and protective, it may mean he cares.
8.     Absence really does make the heart that loves grow fonder.
9.     Making up often requires asking forgiveness.
10.  To know all is to forgive much.
11.  We are all a product of our beginnings so it is important to tell our story.
12.  A single conversation can reveal the heart.
13.  Life’s challenges require us to change and to grow if we are to love deeply and unselfishly.
14.  It is important to say, “I love you” with words as well as actions.
15.  Making love with the person you love can be more than physically satisfying; it can be a beautiful expression of love.

And finally a quote from another of Virginia Henley’s novels, this one from The Dragon and The Jewel where William Marshall reflects on his young wife, Eleanor Plantagenet:

            “He pulled up a stool and watched her for the sheer pleasure of it.
She gave him so much, he could never give enough back. So this was love
then—wanting to give only pleasure to the beloved; constantly searching
your mind for love tokens that would bring a smile to her lips or a sparkle
to her eyes. He deeply regretted it had come so late in life, but since his heart’s
desire was Eleanor who was so much younger than he, it could have been no
other way. He was grateful it had come at all.”

Ah, yes, aren’t we all?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cordia Byers’s PIRATE ROYALE – Absorbing 17th Century Pirate Story…a Keeper!

A classic tale of adventure and love set in the late 17th century, it features the real pirate and privateer Henry Morgan who, along with his buccaneers, successfully attacked the Spanish settlements of Puerto Principe in Cuba and Porto Bello in what is today Panama.

Royale Carrington was John Carrington’s daughter and, as such, commanded the respect of the seamen who served under her when she dressed as a man and wielded a sword with fierce expertise. As captain of her own ship, she was prepared to fight King Charles II’s wardship over her and his refusal to grant her a letter of marque. Instead, she took to the sea as a pirate, robbing the Spanish of their gold.

On the night before Royale is to set sail, she is kidnapped by the crew of the pirate El Diablo, thinking she’d make a fine offering for their mysterious captain. El Diablo asks for a kiss to release her, but then takes her innocence instead. Though he would keep her, she will have none of it.

One of the things I loved about this story was that Royale got away from the pirate who captured her. I just love it when the feisty heroine outsmarts the arrogant male who thinks he will have his way. El Diablo (who is really Sir Bran Langston on a mission for King Charles) soon realizes that the young virgin he has deflowered is the ward of the King, the woman he has been sent to protect.

This is a well-written tale with lots of action—a classic story of pirates and love in the Caribbean as the British fight the Spanish for control. Byers does a wonderful job of integrating the real history of Henry Morgan’s escapades and his personality. I loved the heroine who was strong and smart yet very feminine. And the hero, while certainly not perfect, was at least consistent in his pursuit of the elusive female pirate who takes her revenge by seizing ships in El Diablo’s name.

If you like pirate romance and tales in the Caribbean, I recommend this one, though you’ll have to buy it in paperback until Byers gets it into eBook format.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Danelle Harmon’s PIRATE IN MY ARMS – The Pirate and the Puritan Find Love

Set in Massachusetts in 1715-16, this is the story of Maria Hallett, a 15-year-old innocent who—through a mistaken assumption—is deflowered by Captain Samuel Bellamy, an adventurer who sails into Maria’s puritanical town looking for financial backers for a treasure-hunting scheme.

After ruining Maria, Sam thinks to marry her by her aunt, unaware of what happened, won’t have it. Sam sails away to seek a fortune with the thought the money might convince her aunt to let them marry. When he returns a year later, he is changed. He has become the notorious pirate “Black Sam”.

Based on the true story of the pirate ship Whydah and an old Cape Cod legend about two ill-fated lovers, this was Harmon’s debut novel, first published in 1992, now updated and re-edited.

The story is well written and the dialog lively. There is action aplenty, including swordfights and a violent storm aboard Sam’s ship. Maria is an admirable heroine, handling the adversity life has thrown her with courage, but she wants nothing to do with piracy and harps on Sam about it continuously even though she had wanted to marry him. Sam never gives up, taking command of his life as well as his crew. Shifting points of view and the narrator’s additions make it an unusual read.

If you like a pirate romance with real pirates, including Blackbeard, you’ll find it in this story. An unlikely couple come together through very difficult circumstances!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Janelle Taylor’s FORTUNE’S FLAMES – Exciting Privateer Adventure in New Orleans!

Set during the War of 1812, this is the story of Maren Jones, an American, sailing on her cousin’s ship from England to her home in New Orleans when a privateer by the name of Captain Hawk attacks and boards their ship. 

The infamous Captain Hawk is actually Jared Morgan, a patriot from Savannah who is working for President Madison and looking for traitors supporting the British. Maren’s cousin, Eric, tells her he is also working for the President, but it seems he is lying to her about many things.

Maren met Jared when she was 15 and was so enthralled, she disguised herself as a lad and followed the handsome young man around the wharf. So, when he captures her ship and then steals a kiss, she does not resist. Jared finds her enchanting, but he is also suspicious of both her cousin and her.

This is a tale has many twists and turns and wartime treachery as well. Maren and Jared come together to solve some mysterious happenings and find a way to be together. Jared is certainly a worthy hero I could not help but love. And Maren, having lost her father and mother, is determined to make it on her own with the gambling club left to her, Lady Luck.

There’s a surprise at the end, too!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Laurie McBain’s CHANCE THE WINDS OF FORTUNE – A Shipboard Romance from the 18th Century: Pirates, Privateers and Sea Captains!

For those of you who read and loved McBain’s Moonstruck Madness, as I did, this is the next book in the Dominick trilogy. The first was set in England and this one begins there but soon takes off for America and the Caribbean. You should read all three, as they comprise one story. This one begins the romance of Dante and Rhea, which concludes in book 3. The original story was a bodice ripper (I have the original). I don’t know if they changed the new edition.

Set in 1769, this is the story of Dante Leighton, captain of the Sea Dragon and Marquis of Jacqobi who is hoping a buried treasure will return him the wealth he needs for revenge against the man who took from him Merdraco, his family estate in England, and Rhea Dominick, the beautiful and sweet oldest child of Sabrina and Lucien, Duchess and Duke of Camareigh, who we met in the first book. Rhea is now seventeen and the object of revenge by the Duke’s cousin. Abducted and sent aboard a ship to the Colonies, Rhea escapes one man’s evil plans for another’s.

McBain weaves many threads together for an exciting tale of betrayal, revenge and love wrapped around a hunt for a sunken treasure ship. Actually it is a very long but very absorbing introduction to the third novel, Dark Before The Rising Sun. I could not put it down and so appreciated McBain’s command of the English language and her attention to vivid detail. It is superbly written.

You will soon be lost in the world of Dante’s ship the Sea Dragon and feel Rhea’s intense longing to return home to Camareigh even as her desire grows for the brooding ship’s captain. Rhea is a courageous, unselfish heroine with a fondness for God’s creatures and those in need of help. Dante is a self-absorbed aristocrat turned hardened American privateer and smuggler who is not beyond taking a duke’s daughter.

I promise you will love it but get the next one for the end of the story!

The Dominick trilogy:

·         Moonstruck Madness (1977) Sabrina and Lucien
·         Chance The Winds Of Fortune (1980) their daughter, Rhea and Dante
·         Dark Before The Rising Sun (1982) Rhea and Dante (cont’d.)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

“Making Love” in Georgian and Victorian Novels

Lover's Tryst by Richard Borrmeister

February is a special month on Historical Romance Review as it's the month in which we celebrate love and Valentine's Day (as well as Pirate, Privateer & Love on the High Seas romances). So I thought to begin with an interesting tidbit from history.

What did the Georgians and Victorians mean by "making love"?

Research on this issue was the project of Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher, a hygiene academic who, between 1892 and 1920, persuaded 45 women to fill out questionnaires on their experiences of sex, marriage and contraception. 

Not surprisingly, the results show that most women knew little about sex before marriage with some admitting they only picked up the facts of life by observing the habits of farm animals. But once married, most women said that their sex lives were active and they enjoyed the “habitual bodily expression of love”.

As Fraser Sutherland notes in his essay Why Making Love Isn’t What It Used to Be, where he examines the writing of Victorian men of letters, the term “make love” has undergone change over the last several centuries. Early on, the phrase referred to both wooing and sexual intercourse.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first date for the term “to make love” as 1567, citing Certaine Tragicall Discourses of Bandello with many Georgian and Victorian uses listed as well:

1768, L. Sterne Sentimental Journey “You have been making love to me all this while.”
1784, R. Bage Barham Downs “You..may make love, and play your pitty patties.”
1829, W. Cobbett Advice to Young Men “It is an old saying, ‘Praise the child, and you make love to the mother’.”
1845, T. Hood Poems (1846) “Oh there's nothing in life like making love.”

Thus, the term’s euphemistic usage was firmly entrenched by the early seventeenth century, and remained so into the early twentieth century.

Take a look at my Georgian and Regency Novels, including my Valentine’s Day novella, The Shamrock & The Rose where the hero and heroine do, eventually, "make love". See them on my Website.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Catherine Coulter’s LORD OF FALCON RIDGE – Superb Last in the Viking Series… A Great Adventure!

Set in the 10th century in Norway, Ireland and England, this is the story of Chessa, the daughter of the Irish King. She is kidnapped by Ragnor of York, heir to the Danelaw, who is also a self-possessed dolt and has been told to marry the girl who loathes him.

Chessa has a champion, one Cleve, a Scot who was forced to become a slave and is now a diplomat, who sets out to rescue her. He needs her back since he's negotiated her marriage to William of Normandy, another man Chessa doesn’t want. When a storm blows Chessa and her kidnappers onto Hawkfell Island, a wonderful cast of characters, all known to Chessa, join the party. (All the characters from the first novels in the series show up to dive into Cleve's and Chessa's problems. It’s a great reunion!)

Much ensues as Cleve arrives at Hawkfell Island and discovers Chessa wants to marry him. Chessa and Cleve bicker and poke at each other as he insists she is going to Normandy. I laughed out loud at some of their dialog. And only when the problem of Ragnor of York is sorted out can Cleve turn his attention to discovering his true heritage in Scotland.

It’s a great adventure with lots of laughs and excitement along the way. Although I recommend reading the series in order, this can be thoroughly enjoyed as a stand-alone. Coulter weaves a deft tale with lots of historical detail reflecting solid research. I loved this book and appreciated the careful attention she paid to the characters and the historical setting. She is a master of historical romance.

Don’t miss it!

The Viking Novels:

Season of the Sun
Lord of Hawkfell Island
Lord of Raven’s Peak
Lord of Falcon Ridge

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Best Viking Romances!

Every now and then I love a good Viking Romance. Not fantasy, not paranormal, just straight up historical romance from the time of the raiding Northmen. The Viking Age was that part of the medieval period from the end of the 8th century to the middle of the 11th century, although there are Norsemen still around beyond that. It was an age of valiant and sometimes ruthless warriors and raiders.

There’s nothing like a Viking raid and a strapping tall warrior to get your blood boiling, right? Well, of course, it must be well done and we want a strong heroine to give the guy some grief. And a little history thrown in doesn’t hurt either. If you like ‘em, here’s a list of those I’ve rated 4 and 5 stars!

Blind Allegiance and Blind Mercy by Violetta Rand
Dawnfire by Lynn Erickson
Dream of Me, Believe in Me and Come Back to Me, trilogy by Josie Litton
Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
Fires of Winter, Hearts Aflame and Surrender My Love, trilogy by Johanna Lindsey
Forbidden Passion by Theresa Scott
Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, trilogy by Heather Graham
Lord of Hawkfell Island, Lord of Raven’s Peak and Lord of Falcon Ridge, trilogy by Catherine Coulter
Lord of the Runes by Sabrina Jarema
Loveweaver and The Maiden Seer by Tracy Ann Miller
Maidensong by Diana Groe (aka Mia Marlowe)
Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle
Northward the Heart by Maureen Kurr
Odin’s Shadow, A Flame Put Out and Oath Breaker, 3-part story by Erin Riley
Raeliksen, Mac Liam and The Temperate Warrior by Renee Vincent (re-edited and re-released as Sunset Fire, Emerald Glory and Souls Reborn
Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri
Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
Storm Maiden by Mary Gillgannon
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
The Bewitched Viking by Sandra Hill
The Enchantment (first published as My Warrior’s Heart) by Betina Krahn
The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger
The Valiant Heart, The Defiant Heart and The Captive Heart by Kathleen Kirkwood (aka Anita Gordon)
The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford
The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight
The Viking Warrior’s Bride by Harper St. George
To Find a Viking Treasure by Gina Conkle
Twin Passions by Miriam Minger
Viking Captive by Emma Merritt
Viking Gold by Nadine Crenshaw
Viking Passion by Flora Speer
Viking Rose by Ashland Price
Viking Sword: The Stranded One by Mairi Norris

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Harper St. George’s THE VIKING WARRIOR’S BRIDE – Marriage of Convenience Viking Style

Set in 870 in Bernicia (generally, southeastern Scotland/northeastern England), this is the story of Gwendolyn of Alvey, a skilled crossbow archer, who leads her father’s men. She would prefer not to marry since the death of her betrothed, but her father's wish before his death was that she wed a warrior of the Vikings to secure peace for their people.

Vidar is a proud warrior who would rather be off fighting than being lord of a large holding, but he will do his duty and marry the difficult woman forced upon him. His brother, the Viking jarl, tells him he has a lot to learn about women. And so he does. Once they are wed, Gwendolyn thinks they will share a bed but nothing will happen between them. Right. Of course, Vidar proves her wrong and, surprisingly, acts the gentleman in the process. (It seemed like much of the story took place in their bedchamber.)

There are some exciting scenes with rebel bad guys roaming the countryside killing and burning and Gwendolyn comes to the rescue with her bow so that Vidar sees the value of a bride who is also a warrior who can fight by his side.

Though there are references to other couples in the series, this can be read as a stand alone.

The Viking Warriors series:

Enslaved by the Viking
One Night with the Viking
In Bed with the Viking Warrior
The Viking Warrior’s Bride