ONLY FOR LOVE by Elaine Barbieri

PUBLISHER: Zebra, 8/1994
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: Jamaica, 1772
BODICE RIPPER? Yes, mild
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B-

FROM PUBLISHER: When Gillian Haige’s father dies, his only legacy is a mountain of debts. But never does the eighteen-year-old English beauty dream she’ll end up in the dank hold of a ship bound for the Colonies…as an indentured servant! And now her gentle twin lies desperately ill, and will surely perish unless Gillian takes one daring, irrevocable step.


It is a wild scheme, yet from the moment she meets Captain Derek Andrews and feels desire ignite between them, Gillian sees the bargain she can strike: her innocence in exchange for her sister’s life. But on a journey that carries Gillian from the shores of America to a new life on a storm-swept island, she will be forced to choose once again…to fight for her freedom or to surrender to the man who has possessed her-body and soul-with his liberating passion…


MY THOUGHTS: Gillian, the heroine, is twenty, as stated on page 48, not eighteen, as the synopsis states. This story begins in England, then in Jamaica. Saying that they’re headed for the Colonies made me assume they were talking about the British Colonies in the United States but that’s not what they meant.

We got zero background on Derek and weren’t even told his age or where he’s from. He must have been in his late twenties, at least, since he’d spent some time in prison and is captain of his own ship, Colonial Dawn. He’s rude and possessive of Gillian but not verbally, physically, or sexually abusive towards her. He doesn’t seem too friendly either.

Gillian is feisty and stands up for herself, which I really like in a heroine. I didn’t see the need for her to have a sister since the sister was a pretty weak character and served no purpose to the storyline, as far as I could tell.

I really liked the two main villains: Derek’s ex-lover, red-haired and green-eyed Emmaline Dorcett. She was obsessed with having him though she was married to an older man. She was peppered throughout the story but I wanted more of her. I found her to be very interesting and wanted to see what damage she could have done. I really wanted some background on her but we got none, including her age. Her husband Robert said she was very young to his 50+ so I’m guessing she’s in her twenties.

John Barrett, who’s an agent for the London Transport Company, was in charge of all the indentured servants aboard Derek’s ship. He became obsessed with Gillian and hatched a plan to have her. Gillian hated him with a passion and that ate at him and intensified his obsession with having her. John once called Gillian Madame Uppity Bitch!

Another villain early on was an older prostitute named Maggie, who was always called a ‘vicious whore’ by Jon Barrett. The verbal sparring between them was great! She too became obsessed with Gillian on the ship but I don’t understand why she hated her so much. I thought she was going to do harm to her but that didn’t happen.

This was published in 1994 but it felt like one older. The heroine had a backbone, the hero was rude, there were terrible villains. Though there’s no abuse towards the heroine, I consider this a mild bodice ripper.

The negatives- I wish over half this story didn’t take place on a ship. I wish Maggie’s character had lasted longer and I wish Emmaline and John had teamed up to do some harm. You wouldn’t know by the cover that this is historical and the hero/heroine’s hair color isn’t quite right.

 

THE MASQUE OF A MURDERER by Susanna Calkins

PUBLISHER: Minotaur, 3/2015
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Mystery
SETTING: England, 1667
SERIES: A Lucy Campion Mystery, #3
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: In Susanna Calkins’s next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her–that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.

Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate’s son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.

MY THOUGHTS: This was pretty boring, a little slow, and could have been written in about sixty pages less. There weren’t any interesting characters in this at all, not one. There were way too many characters to keep up with, at least thirteen, and I got a bit confused a few times. There should have been some backstory on Lucy but there wasn’t.

The murderer is too over the top in what they’ve done. And they gave a full confession at the end which is very annoying and unbelievable and I wish writers would stop having their villains do that.

There were quite a few times in the story when Lucy made comments, not asked questions, and the author ended the sentences with question marks. A few examples: Surely there is something you can do?, I could talk to them again? See if I could learn anything more?, I could take some tracts to share? While I make some general inquiries?

See my reviews for books one and two in this series.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

MIDNIGHT FIRES by Andrea Layton

PUBLISHER: Playboy Paperbacks, 1/1979
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: New York & Massachusetts, USA 1770’s
BODICE RIPPER: Yes
RAPE? Multiple
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: D

FROM PUBLISHER: Ravished by a cruel, merciless stranger…loved by the passionate man she might never see again…Carolyn Salford flees the brutal wilderness for aristocratic Boston and the arms of her fiancé.

Stalked by danger, vulnerable to the turbulent desires tormenting her, she is haunted by the memory of a man she dare not love but cannot forget.

SPOILER SUMMARY: Carolyn is eighteen years old. She and her family are traveling from New York to Boston, but they’re travelling separately. Along the way she runs into George Nelson, a man two years older than her, who’s in love with her. He rapes her once then it turns consentual. She goes on her merry way and is kidnapped and raped several times by some random Frenchman named Jean Lemelle. He gets what he’s had coming to him and she’s once again on her way. Not much else happens until the last fifty pages, when she meets up with her fiancé, William. William only wants to marry her because of the fortune she’s to inherit soon from her British mothers family. He rapes her several times, including once anally, and holds her prisoner in his home and verbally abuses her constantly. He’s keeping her drugged with laudanum and they set sail on a ship bound for London. She thinks he plans to killer her once they’re married. She escapes, meets back up with George, who she’s now in love with, and they get married.

MY THOUGHTS: This is truly one of the most boring books I’ve ever read. Luckily it was barely over 300 pages. The first 150 pages or so was Carolyn traveling, mostly by herself via horseback, to Boston. The plot was mostly talk of war and I got so sick of it. The only interesting part was the last fifty-some pages or so, when William came on the scene. William’s a character I’d have liked to have known more about. Not even his age was given. Him coming into the story is what kept this from getting an F rating from me.

THE COUNTERFEIT MARRIAGE by Joan Wolf

PUBLISHER: Signet, 2/1980
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1800’s
SERIES: Signet Regency Romance #16
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Enchantingly beautiful Catherine Renwick had good cause to despise darkly handsome, insufferably arrogant James Pembroke, Earl of Allandale.

It was this deplorable man who on a night of wild debauchery caused Catherine to be abducted and brought to him at a country inn. It was he who took her virtue by force, and left her threatened with disgrace.

True, he now was willing to make amends by giving her his name in marriage. And equally true, she had no choice but to accept. But Catherine was sure that nothing in the world could erase her hatred for him or her horror of his embrace.

Catherine was an innocent no longer–yet she had so much to learn about love and the maddening deceptions of the heart….

MY THOUGHTS: I had high hopes for this but the majority of the story was boring. The beginning and end were good but that’s all. Once the incident at the beginning was over with, James and Catherine got along great for the duration of the story. No conflict, no disagreements, no nothing. 

James is twenty-six and Catherine is seventeen. The story spans just over a year but I don’t know what year it begins or ends. When James was sober we were told he was remorseful for what he’d done the night before but I didn’t feel it. He’s a rather bland character.

Catherine was put in a bad situation and dealt with it very well and seemed quite mature for just barely seventeen. We’re told they’re both in love with each other but I’m not feeling that either. I don’t think they were around each other much.

Her cousin Ian, I did like, especially towards the end when his craziness came out to play. He seems to be around her age. He became really angry when he found out why James and Catherine married and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t asked to marry her instead when that was their plan in the first place. He hatched a plan that didn’t work out in the end. That situation wasn’t handled in a believable way by James.

CAPTAIN’S WOMAN by Saliee O’Brien with author photo

PUBLISHER: Pocket Books, 12/1979
SETTING: 1714 England/Bahamas/Cuba
TIMESPAN: Six years
NARRATION: First Person
HEROINE: Mary Read
HERO: Captain Roger Courtney
BODICE RIPPER: Yes
RAPED HEROINE? Yes
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER:

SHE WAS DISGUISED AS A BOY- Forced to flee England to escape her lecherous kinsmen, she was a stowaway on a pirate ship, with a secret as dangerous as her life.

BUT SHE WAS ALWAYS A WOMAN!- She served her Captain, a man cold as ice. But her love couldn’t touch him, for he had a secret as mysterious as his stormy past.

CAPTAIN’S WOMAN- A novel of flaming passion, a woman’s enduring love and the storms that beset it.

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MY THOUGHTS: This is one crazy story. The heroine, Mary, is nineteen and living at her deceased grandmother’s home, which is now being run by the grandmother’s male relative. Mary is using the name George Read because she’s been living the last five years of her life as a boy. Her mother died and she went to live with the grandmother….who really believes she’s male. When she was little, her mother dressed her as a boy and took her to visit her grandmother. The grandmother didn’t like boys so that’s the reason for the disguise.

Sir Cecil, who’s thirty and married, is bisexual. He’s been at Hunter House since the grandmother died two months before. He takes a liking to ‘George’, who is not a blood relative. He catches him undressing one day and discovers that George is really a woman. He rapes Mary and tells her she’s to be his secretary and that they’re to continue their sexual relationship. She told him no and told his wife that she was really a woman. Cecil had Mary arrested for being an imposter and she was taken away by two men. On the way to Newgate Prison, they raped her outside of the carriage. She got away from them, naked, hid and then returned to the spot she was raped and put all her clothes, and wig, on. She found a ship called The Hague and snuck onto it and hid.

A guy named Karl van Buskirk found her and believed her to be male due to her disguise. Somehow he found she was female and she agreed to have sex with him if he kept her secret and tried to find her a job on the ship. He introduced her to Captain Roger Courtney, who’s got auburn hair and blue eyes. She, disguised as George, became his cabin boy. A crewman came into the room once and saw that she was a woman and agreed to keep it secret. Word got out to some that she was female and she got raped by a crewman. Soon after, the same day, she and Captain Roger where in his cabin. He raped her. When the penetration began she actually held him tighter to her. She thought this about the incident, “He held me tightly, shuddering and I knew that, though he had raped me, it was actually I who had conquered him.”

All sorts of crazy nonsense takes place for the rest of the novel, far too much to get into. I got real bored after about a third of the way through it and couldn’t wait to finish it. Way too much manly sea stuff and fighting for my liking.

Karl is thrown overboard and is presumed dead until he shows up years later. Mary ends up in Cuba married to a Cuban man named Pablo Gómez. She’d met him previously. She finds out from her maid that he’s been raping and beating her. The maid takes her to a dungeon where Pablo currently has four girls chained up and hanging from the ceiling. During this time, Captain Roger Courtney shows up. She still loves him and agrees to sail away with him, even though the’s still married to Pablo, to his home in England, where he’s a Lord and no longer a pirate. That’s how the story ends.

It’s totally implausible that a feminine woman could live several years dressed as a man and have no one know it. How stupid do authors think we, the
readers, are? And this whole time, there was no mention of Mary ever getting pregnant. The stuff with the dungeon could have been interesting if the author hadn’t thrown that in out of the blue during the last few pages.

This is one over-the-top story. It’s only 296 pages and too much action is packed into it. I got this book in September 2009 and have finally read it. I was impressed with the craziness of it but my excitement died shortly after I started reading it.

A DUKE TO REMEMBER by Kelly Bowen

PUBLISHER: Forever, 7/2016
GRNRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1819
SERIES: Season for Scandal, #2
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.


MY THOUGHTS/SPOILERS: This story was interesting enough and was more romantic suspense than romance. The plot was pretty simple and easy to follow along with. No complicated subplots to distract from the main one. I liked both lead characters alright.

The synopsis isn’t completely accurate and it’s the publishers fault. It states that ‘Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country’ but that’s false. At the age of ten he was forced into an insane asylum for absolutely no reason, then escaped a few years later. He had no choice but to go into hiding. He didn’t chose to leave ‘the glamour of the London aristocracy’. He was forced to live a secret life for fear of being caught and sent back against his will.

Some things I didn’t like. I find it very hard to believe that Elise found Noah right away without even looking for him. I find it hard to believe too that Noah’s friend Joshua, the one he escaped with when he was fifteen and hasn’t seen since, was also involved in finding him. I don’t find it plausible at all that Elise could be masquerading as a man sometimes without anyone suspecting she’s female. I’d have liked for Noah’s evil cousin Francis Ellery to have been in the story a lot more instead of just being at the beginning and end. His involvement in this story was far more interesting to me than that of Elise and Noah and far more interesting than the sex scenes.

I’m disappointed that Noah didn’t converse with his mother about being sent away all those years ago. I was hoping she hadn’t been involved in the plot, in fact I was assuming we’d find out she hadn’t been, but they never even spoke to one another.

I think Noah’s thirty-five years old but I’m not sure and I have no idea how old Elise is. We got no backstory at all on her. I don’t think I’d read this author again.

Lastly, there’s a line in the story (page 137 of the ARC) where Noah said, “I.Don’t.Want.The.Title”. Please keep that awful modern-day way of typing out of historicals.

Same review here.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

MISTRESS OF MELLYN by Victoria Holt

PUBLISHER: Doubleday, 1960
GENRE: Fiction/Gothic Romantic Suspense
SETTING: England, 19th Century
PSEUDONMYS: link
MY GRADE: B-

FROM PUBLISHER: From the moment Martha Leigh first glimpsed the cold, brooding manse high on the fog-shrouded Cornish cliffs, she felt a chill of apprehension.

Then she met her employer, the arrogant master of Mellyn, and his spoiled, headstrong daughter, Alvean, and knew why the three governesses before her had left the eerie mansion.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Martha began to be aware of an atmosphere of menace. There had been whispers of past horrors, warnings of violence yet to come–and now there were strange accidents. It was madness to stay on.

But Connan TreMellyn’s dark charm had over-powered Martha’s natural caution. Against her will she felt irresistibly drawn to the handsome, enigmatic master of Mellyn.

Now, even as she found herself being pulled deeper and deeper into a frightening web of unseen terror, she knew she could not, would not leave…


MY THOUGHTS: This story was interesting enough but the plot was very slow moving the entire way through and fairly tame. There have been a few suspicious happenings at Connan’s home lately; mysterious letters, falling boulders, ect. I never once guessed who the culprit was. I don’t like that the tiny bit of action this story had took place during the last thirteen pages. I didn’t get a gothic feel from this story either, not once.

Every single character was underdeveloped and I didn’t feel as if I’d gotten to know any of them. With Connan I’m not seeing any ‘charm’, dark or otherwise. He wasn’t around all that much. I don’t understand where his attraction and ‘love’ for Martha came from at all. They’re hardly ever together and all of a sudden he wants to marry her. I don’t know why he didn’t just marry Lady Linda Treslyn since they were involved with each other.