Memories Schmemories My Beloved by Karen Ranney

November 29, 2016
Whatever happened to medieval romance?


The proverbial light-bulb went off. In my search for a good book, which included hopping into the Wayback Machine, it dawned on me. Most of the books I've been rereading take place in what I would call medieval times. After rereading them, even the ones I didn't particularly care for, I came to the conclusion that the historical genre is missing something. Most historicals now take place in the 1800s or early 1900s. After rereading some of my old books I have arrived at the conclusion that our authors are missing out on some very colorful time periods. It's a shame that medieval and dark ages aren't more popular. These books (even the ones not so good), have been very vivid. These time periods have a lot going on in them which we are missing.

My Beloved, by Karen Ranney. Karen Ranney is not an auto-buy author for me. I pick up her books when I hear good things about them - and, that is what happened with this one. My Beloved is/was a book which has a preponderance of glowing reviews. Since I am in a dry spell, I thought “what the hey, let’s give it a try.” I'm glad I did.

We have for our heroine, Juliana. A shy woman who has been betrothed to Sebastian forever and ever. She's been waiting for him patiently at the local convent. When he finally returns, she is eager to begin their marriage, but there is a stumbling block. Sebastian does not want the marriage to be consummated. He has a reason, a good reason, or at least better than a lot of Romanceland reasons. However, he doesn't tell Juliana what that reason is. Spoiler: I'll give you a hint, he's been locked up, he's wears cloths which cover him from head to toe and he cannot be touched. He is a leper. Not a fake leper, but a real one. Because he was a real leper, I wondered how the author was going to come up with a HEA. Especially considering this was a time period when the treatment of leprosy required isolation in some dark, dank cave somewhere.

Sebastian is a loyal man. He is responsible for his home Langlinais and the people who live on those lands, so his secret must never be found out. Juliana does not want to go back to the convent, so she accepts Sebastian's proposal. She remains with him at Langlinais and begins a life of not touching. Well, these two may not be able to touch, but they can talk to each other - and they do. They become friends and of course they fall in love.

This is a true love story. There is so much to love about My Beloved. Almost everything in this story is full, rich, and colorful. Ms. Ranney has written words which have sounds - you can hear the music of the time. This book contains tons of vivid imagery. The characters are strong, well-developed and lovely. Their time together is very poignant - I was tense myself with the worry of just how Ms. Ranney was going to resolve their problem. Did I like her resolution? Not really. I would have liked a cure coming from some herbal stuff that Juliana creates, instead I got a Ben-Hur cave moment. But that's just me, I'm not a "miracle" type person. Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the resolution, I found My Beloved to be a rich tapestry of lovely words and I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves romance books.

Time/Place: Medieval England
Sensuality: Sensual


Burrrrrr! Holy Cannoli! Upcoming Historical Romances!!!

November 22, 2016

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’ And when they wake up in the summer, Kitty, they dress themselves all in green, and dance about - whenever the wind blows.” - Lewis Carroll Alice Through the Looking Glass

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see 
Hey Delia!!! December 15, 2016 to January 14, 2017. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
Alexander Hawkins
Waiting for an Earl Like You
Masters of Seduction series
January 3
Amanda Forester
My Highland Rebel
Highland Trouble series
January 3
Ann Lethbridge
Secrets of the Marriage Bed
December 20
Christine Merrill
The Wedding Game
December 20
Emily Larkin*
Trusting Miss Trentham
Baleful Godmother series
January 9
Grace Burrowes
The Trouble with Dukes
Windham Brides series
December 20
Harper St. George
In Bed With the Viking Warrior
January 1
Jane Ashford
Lord Sebastian’s Secret
The Duke’s Sons series
January 3
Jenni Fletcher
Married to Her Enemy
December 20
Julia London*
Wild Wicked Scot
December 27
Julie Quinn*
Elizabeth Boyle
Stefanie Sloane
Laura Lee Guhrke
Four Weddings and a Sixpence
December 27
KJ Charles
Wanted, A Gentleman
January 9

Just so you know - sometimes this link works and sometimes it doesn't. Since I am not an IT genius I cannot explain. The address is good.
Lynna Banning
Baby on the Oregon Trail
December 20
Madeline Martin
Highland Spy
The Mercenary Maiden series
January 10
Manda Collins
Ready Set Rogue
Studies in Scandal series
January 3
Mary Brendan
Compromising the Duke’s Daughter
December 20
Maya Rodale
Lady Claire is All That
Keeping Up with the Cavendishes series
December 27
Sharon Page
The Worthington Wife
sequel to An American Duchess
December 27
Stephanie Laurens
Lord of the Privateers
The Adventurers Quartet series
December 27


Memories Schmemories, The Wedding by Julie Garwood

November 21, 2016
Second verse same as the first.


In my review of The Bride, I stated that I liked The Wedding better than The Bride. Let me clarify. Just because I liked one better than the other doesn't mean allll that much, cause I didn't like it allll that much betterrrr. I thought the humor in The Wedding was funnier, or maybe I was just in a better mood while reading The Wedding. However, the characters in both books are interchangeable. They are the same except for their name. Maybe this was so obvious to me this time around because I read them so close together and not a year apart like I did when they were first published.  The only thing The Wedding had which The Bride didn't was a revenge plot device. This revenge plot is interwoven throughout the pages and in my opinion it is what makes the hero an almost-bonehead.

Revenge. I hatessss revenge plots. When our hero Connor is ten years old, his father is murdered by another clan chieftain and a secret villain. Connor promises his dying father he will avenge him. Connor and a couple of the other boys are saved and taken in by Alec Kincaid (The Bride). Even though he is raised by the kindly stubborn Alec, he still has dreams of revenge - much to Alec's chagrin.

Then we have Brenna (heroine). Brenna doesn't seem to have any problems, except she has a tendency to leave things behind. When she first meets Connor, she's five years old and is instantly struck by Connor's bigness. If my calculations are correct, Connor is fifteen when five year old Brenna first sees him. Of course, even at fifteen he's the biggest guy in the room. He becomes her knight, and she cannot forget him (remember she's five.)

Years pass. Connor learns that his enemy is about to marry. Of course Connor thinks that kidnapping this young woman is the perfect revenge. I was not able to decipher his thinking on this (must have been a middle age time period thing). Anyway, he kidnaps Brenna and soon discovers she is the little girl from allll those years ago - now she has boobs.

Brenna and Connor bicker, argue, disagree. Connor is beyond arrogant. He's right about everything and he views Brenna as sort of a gnat - a gnat with boobs. She is of no importance to him except as a bed partner - and of course for revenge.

Speaking of bed partner, Connor almost immediately consummates his marriage to Brenna. Remember, they are almost strangers, even if he was her hero when she was five. I wouldn't say that this consummation was a forced seduction, but it came pretty close to it. You would think that after a billion years of romance reading I would be used to strangers doing the deed - but in this case their first dippety-do session came awfully close to setting off my ick-o-meter.

For most of the book Brenna yells, screams and argues with Connor. For his part, Connor ignores Brenna but he expects her to follow his orders and not question him. Brenna seemed to be two people to me - one moment she's arguing with Conner calling him an oaf, the next she's trying to please him. She tries to please him by doing things she thinks he will like. Although she is guessing about what pleases him, because she doesn't try to get to know him and he doesn't communicate. She is also oblivious to the furor she creates (much like Jamie from The Bride.)

I had a big problem with Connor. He's toooo arrogant, toooo omniscient, tooo stubborn, and toooo focused on his revenge. There is also a period of time in this book where he just up and leaves. Doesn't tell Brenna why, where, or for how long. I have no idea why Brenna fell in love with him.

I wish two things about Brenna. First of all I wish she would have stood up to her mother-in-law sooner. For someone who was supposed to be strong, her martyrdom with her in-laws didn't make a whole lot of sense. Secondly, I wish she had a different hero, someone who knew she existed and treated her like a human not a pet monkey.

As with The Bride, I was disappointed with The Wedding. I felt as if the author didn't really work all that hard to create two different stories. The heroes in both books didn't stand up to the test of time. Their means of communication boiled down to a grunt here and there. In the case of the heroines, they were both oblivious to the real world around them and the effect they had on it. At times they came close to being TSTL women. I did prefer The Wedding to The Bride, not because I liked it better but because I liked The Bride less. The Wedding didn’t age well.

Time/Place: Medieval Scotland
Sensuality: Warm/Hot/Oblivious


Memories Schmemories, The Bride by Julie Garwood

November 17, 2016
Contrary to popular belief I am not a whiner...


Except for now. (I have to laugh - ha, ha - because I am a whiner.) I am still going through an enormous dry spell of books that either don't grab me right away or are very
disappointing. I have been resurrecting numerous older books, which is why I had a Garwood rush. After rereading The Secret, I decided to reread two of her connected books (can't read one without the other), The Bride and The Wedding. Much to my surprise I liked one better than the other. Why is that, you may ask. Well, I scratched my head and asked myself how can you like one better than the other when they are almost totally the same! Yes, all one would really need to do is just copy paste the names from one book to the other and save oneself some money. So, how come I enjoyed one more than the other? May have been my mood, but I don't think so. Let's give it a look, shall we?

The Bride by Julie Garwood was written in 1989. In this book we have Jamie, who is the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison, or more correctly his step-daughter. Jamie's mother was already pregnant when the Baron married her, but he couldn't love her any more if she were the child of his blood, aka DNA. Jamie is an interesting character - she has taken over the running of the household, she does all the work, she is the one with calluses on her hands while her step-sisters have none. You might think that would make her a martyr, but in this case she isn't unhappy about any of the work or responsibility. In fact, she's downright proud that she does all the thinking, working, digging, planning - keeping everything ship-shape-shape-ship. She doesn't see that she is being used by her father and sisters. She actually gets downright belligerent at anyones suggestion that she is a walked all over drudge. The problem with this kind of characterization is that to do all of that stuff, you would think a person wouldn't be quite so naive. Wrong. Jamie is one of the biggest, happiest, butterfly-on-shoulder, innocent ever. The workaholic and innocence don't go together. How can she be savvy enough to run a big household, but still be oblivious to what goes on around her. But everyone loves her. She's like an early Disney heroine - everyone loves her, she wins over the meanest ogre with just a winsome smile. But, she's not aware that she's doing it. I found her too good to be believed. Because of that when passages were written with the intention of being funny, I didn't laugh.

Then we have Alec Kincaid. Alec is a typical Garwood Scottish hero - big, big, big, alpha-caveman, me-right-you-wrong, followed by a grunt here and there. He also had an irritating habit of saying "hot" as in "you're hot for me." Wait a minute, wait a minute, isn't this the 1200s something - would guys really say "you're hot for me?" Wouldn't they say something like "milady, you make my codpiece big" or since we are in Scotland "och, ma braw lassie, ma knob is big fer ya." Actually, Ms. Garwood doesn't have Scottish brogue littered throughout her books. Anyway, I found "hot" distracting and it threw me out of the story numerous times.

For me, The Bride didn't hold up well over the years. Except for the horses, I had no sense of being in a different time period. The heroine was tiny, spunky, and close to TSTL. The hero was big, big, big, virile, big, commanding, stubborn, big. In the past I have been known to go into a rant when someone calls my beloved romance novels clich├ęd. However, I must confess that for me The Bride comes off being very much a formula book.

Time/Place: Medieval Scotland
Sensuality: Creepy Hot (she's oblivious, he's not)


A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell

November 16, 2016

A Date at the Altar is part of the Marrying the Duke series.

Poor Gavin. This isn't the first time we've run into Gavin, Duke of Baynton. In the two
previous books Gavin was a secondary character who kept getting stood up at the wedding altar. He also happens to be a secondary character who almost stole the book in Fairest of the All. If you remember correctly in that book he and Sarah Pettijohn were chasing a runaway couple across the country. Gavin and Sarah were the only good thing about that book and now it's their turn.

I admit, I was looking forward to this book. I was hoping that Ms. Maxwell could create a story worthy of the fascinating secondary characters of Sarah and Gavin. Alas, they suffered from Secondary Characteritis. That's a disease that great secondary character get when they get their own books. One of the symptoms of this disease is a character is written one way when they are supporting, but then they change when they get their own books. So many expectations have been crushed by not enlarging on the way they are written when they first open their mouths in their supporting roles. When this story started I had hopes that this story would go in a direction I might like. But it soon became apparent that I was being lead down a different path. And, as the story progressed I became less and less fond of our hero, Gavin. Realistically I know that a real duke would never offer marriage to an actress (although some have). But as I grow older I'm becoming less fond of heroes offering a less than honorable proposition to a woman they supposedly love. I have a problem with my hero believing he loves the woman he's offering a carte blanche to and still planning on marrying someone else. It's a lose, lose situation for all involved. The mistress and the wife both lose. In the hands of some writers this kind of story line can be pulled off, but Ms. Maxwell doesn't.

This story had all the right ingredients to make it a fun great read. Gavin is a virgin, a rarity in Romanceland, and Sarah has been married before. Gavin realizes he is strongly attracted to Sarah and really really wants to end his virginity. Sarah on the other hand isn't all that interested in a relationship with a man - her marriage was a failure. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she is forced to accept his proposition.

All of a sudden Gavin changes from an uptight stuffed-shirt into a free-wheeling man about town. He is also one of those virgins who know what goes where and how much ding to put in the ding-a-ling. I just wish his idea of honor had been different. I'm tired of "men of their time." As I said before his character didn't set well with me. Sarah I liked better; her character didn't change all that much from the last book.

For me this book was another disappointment in a long line of disappointments. I wish the book had continued the dynamics that were established in the previous book. They were quite humorous then, especially when Sarah was getting on every inch of Gavin's stuffed-shirt nerves. The character momentum just did not carry through. A big disappointment.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm


Memories Schmemories - The Secret by Julie Garwood

November 3, 2016
Somebody out there write a new book!! Let me rephrase - somebody out there write a new book that I like.

So, I'm still on a quest to find a book which is new and which grabs me right in the first pages. Sorry to say, I have put a number of books down lately because the oomph just isn't there. Is it me? In order to answer that question I have turned to a number of my older books for comfort and answers.

The Secret, by Julie Garwood. I remember this book with fondness, so let's see if it stands up to the test of time. Written in 1992 by Ms. Garwood (before she turned to the dark side - contemporary/suspense), this has always been on my list of favorite books. The Secret starts with two little girls - Lady Judith Hampton, an English girl, and Frances Catherine Kirkcaldy, a lowlander girl. They meet when they are four years old at a fair. Judith "saves" Catherine from a bee sting and from then on they are fast friends. Even though they see each other only once a year, the promises they make to each other are never forgotten - and the secrets are never divulged. Years pass. Frances Catherine is married to a highlander and about to give birth. She's isolated, in need of a friend and very afraid. She wants Judith there by her side to help her through the birth. Her husband, Patrick, wants to make sure that his wife has everything she wants. But before he can send for Judith, he must ask permission from the council to bring an English woman into their village. You see, this village of highlanders don't need anyone, they don't cotton to outsiders and they especially don't need no stinkin' Sassenach miss. Enter our hero, Iain. Iain is not only Patrick’s brother but also the highland clan Laird.  He forces the council to concede and travels to England to retrieve Judith. He knows (because he's sooooo knowledgeable) that Judith will refuse to return with him. Silly man, he's never read a romance novel.

While I enjoyed revisiting this book, it had the feel of a book written in the nineties. The guys are all giants - they are big big big. They are stubborn, they are always right and they pat the little women on their itty-bitty heads while all the time smiling in a condescending manner. They also expect to be obeyed without any explanation. There is also a suspension of belief surrounding our heroine traveling sans chaperone through medieval England, Scotland. So, there were some annoying problems for me this time around which were not there in 1992. You know in the whole scheme of things, 1992 isn't all that old, it's only 24 years ago, but for me to really enjoy this book I had to keep reminding myself that it was an older book. What I found gloriously refreshing 24 years ago I would not find so today.

I would have to say that The Secret is a classic romance but an example of a writing style which may be just a little dated. So, it's rather hard to review this book. The reason it's so hard for me to review this book, is that once upon a time I loved the characters in this book so much. Judith was spunky and Iain was domineering. They were fun to watch and listen to. So, it is one of those good old books which I have a fond memory of and made me love romance so much. There will always be a warm fuzzy place in my heart for The Secret. Now having said that, if I were to judge this book by my current standards I would have to say there isn't much to it. There's hardly any character development. Oh sure, the main characters are feisty and combative - but Judith is tooooo naive and Iain is too omnipresent. I didn't really understand why he was the way he was.

Overall. I smile because The Secret is a classic romance novel and should have a place with other classic romances. If you read this one or any of Ms. Garwood’s early works, remember they are a reflection of the time period they were written in. There is not as much care given to historical accuracy and not enough story development to overlook those inaccuracies. It's always interesting to read an older book - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I loved this book long ago, so for that it will retain its special place. I don't think it holds up well against today's writing.

Time/Place: 1100s Scotland
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Classic Brain: A
Current Brain: C