KEEPING SECRETS by Suzanne Somers

PUBLISHER: Warner Books, 2/1988
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir
PURCHASE: link
AUTHOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: A+

FROM PUBLISHER: This is the story of the Suzanne Somers the world never knew…the shy, frightened child trembling at her father’s drunken rages, the troubled teenager who became a pregnant bride, the young model struggling to support her son, the rising star still haunted and controlled by her past. It’s the story she wrote for America’s millions of adult children of alcoholics, people who don’t drink, yet suffer from and need help against the ravages of this insidious disease. And it’s a story of incredible courage, a candid, sometimes shocking autobiography of a woman who dared to face the dark side of her soul and triumph over it.


MY THOUGHTS: This memoir was much darker than I’d anticipated. Actually, I didn’t expect anything like it. Suzanne’s father (born to Irish immigrant parents) and all three of her siblings are recovering alcoholics, or were before the book was published in early 1988. Her father’s side has quite a few in the family.

Her father was an angry, verbally abusive foulmouthed man who was never not drinking. The house was constantly filled with chaos and there was some violence. The father was assaulted by three of the children at different times when they were teenagers. Suzanne once hit him in the head with a tennis racket when she was sixteen, resulting in a bloody head injury that required medical attention, her older sister kicked him in the ribs and broke them, and her younger brother broke his ribs too. Suzanne wet the bed until she was in her early teens, her younger brother did too, and Suzanne began having nightmares in first grade. She’d hide in her bedroom closet a lot too to get away from the yelling. Her mother stood by her man and allowed her four children to be raised up in a mess but Suzanne holds nothing against either parent.

Suzanne didn’t have it easy in her early life and career. She comes from a religious Catholic family and went to Catholic schools. She got expelled from one when she was 14 because a snooping nun found in her locker a somewhat explicit poem she wrote about a boy she was interested in. She got pregnant when she was not quite 17 1/2, got married to the father, had the baby, Bruce Jr., in November 1964, one month after her 18th birthday, then began having an affair with a much older man (47). Her marriage ended a few years later and she began dating her current husband, Alan Hamel, even though he was married with two children. They married about nine years later, in 1977. Acting and modeling jobs were few and far between so she had major trouble paying bills and was even arrested for bouncing checks. She got pregnant by Alan shortly after and had an abortion and almost hemorrhaged to death in the days following. She shot nude test photos for possible publication in Playboy magazine but changed her mind about it and never signed the release. Playboy released the photos anyway years later after she became famous by being on Three’s Company.

Sadly she didn’t discuss the controversy surrounding her firing from Three’s Company in 1980 but she may discuss it in her second memoir, 1998’s After The Fall.

I think the book is well written, I loved it and have nothing bad to say about it.

 

BLACK CHRISTMAS by Thomas Altman

PUBLISHER: Bantam, 12/1983
GENRE: Fiction/Contemporary Horror
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Christmas in Murdock. A time of cozy safety, snowy sidewalks, and carolling children. But this holiday season someone is bating Sheriff Dunsmore in a bizarre and deadly game. Someone is stalking the young women he knows and loves…seducing them with icy steel…leaving them for him to find – far too late. It’s the night before Christmas. The frightened town edges toward panic. And Dunsmore is about to receive the most terrifying gift of all.

MY THOUGHTS: I should state that this novel has nothing to do with the 1974 film Black Christmas (though that was novelized in 1976 by Lee Hays).

This was fairly boring. Three young women from the same town are murdered at different times within a short period of time in the days leading up to Christmas, and a fourth was almost killed. It wasn’t until shortly before the killer was revealed that I’d guessed who they were.

There were the usual suspects- ex-husband, odd boy in town, ect., neither of which turn out to be the killer. I don’t understand the significance of the number thirteen; each victim was stabbed thirteen times. The reason for killing two of the three doesn’t make any sense and it wasn’t explained why the killer had those two on their radar anyway. The ending is odd too, somewhat happy, and I’m not at all satisfied with it. The novel needed to be slightly longer so we could have gotten some answers as to what the killer was thinking.

This wasn’t suspenseful enough and it wasn’t good enough to recommend.

 

À LA MODE: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings: Pies, Tarts, Cakes, Crisps, and More Topped with Ice Cream, Gelato, Frozen Custard, and More by Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein

PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Griffin
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: Are you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.

Let’s face it: vanilla can sometimes be so… vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With À la Mode, IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven’t lived until you’ve had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!

THINGS I’VE MADE

RASPBERRY OAT BARS

These turned out really good and they have great crunch. The dough is made from butter, white and brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, almonds, egg white, salt. I left out the cinnamon. I added a little vanilla extract to the mixture and added 1/8t almond extract to the raspberry jam.

I think this could have used just 3/4c. jam instead of 1c. Of course you could substitute any other jam for the raspberry. I cut my bars, which were made in a 9″ square baking pan, into six pieces. If you happen to have a 7″ square pan you could probably make just half of this recipe.

 

CHERRY-VANILLA FROZEN CUSTARD

This has egg yolks in it, vanilla extract, milk, cream, sugar, salt, and canned sweet cherries. I don’t like that you can taste the egg, but I knew this was custard so I expected an egg taste. It was very easy to prepare in a sauce pot and my cold mixture took about 30 minutes in the ice cream maker before it thickened enough to pour into my container to freeze. When I went to eat some twenty hours later it was of a perfect scooping consistency. I used less vanilla extract than called for but it was still way too much. I’d make this again using less vanilla. When I ate the last of it four days after freezing the mixture, I didn’t even notice an eggy taste.

CHOCOLATE SOUR CHERRY LAYER CAKE

I made half the recipe in an 8″x2″ square pan and didn’t layer sour cherry jam between layers. It baked in 26 minutes. I made my own buttercream frosting for this. This is very bitter. It’s made with both unsweetened cocoa powder and melted semisweet chocolate. It’s dense like a brownie.

I’d never make this again and words can’t describe my disappointment. I’ve made countless chocolate cakes and none have ever been bitter.

ORANGE SHERBET

This is made with milk, cream, sugar, clear corn syrup, unflavored gelatin, salt, orange juice, and orange zest. It has a very pale orange color. It tastes good, like a Creamsicle® but it’s got ice crystals all through it and it’s not creamy like you’d expect and falls apart. My mixture took 28 minutes in the ice cream maker  After freezing 24 hours it was pretty firm. I’m not sure what the gelatin did for this, or the corn syrup. I’d make this again but only if I couldn’t find a creamier recipe elsewhere.

LEMON POLENTA CAKE

This buttery cake has good flavor and smells good too. It’s made with fine ground polenta, flour, plain yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. It’s dense and slightly moist. The texture is not that of a standard cake since this has polenta in it. It’s more coarse. I made half in a 9″x1.5″ round pan. It sunk in the middle slightly. It baked in 19 minutes. I made my own thick vanilla glaze for it. I used the zest from one lemon for this and it’s the right amount.

SOUR CHERRY COBBLER

This recipe uses all sour cherries but I used just one drained can of them and a 16oz. bag of frozen dark sweet pitted cherries. I used a 1.5qt baking dish. The topping has ground almonds in it. My topping was wetter than it should have been though I used the exact amount of milk specified in the recipe. It didn’t taste good either and was a little too salty. The bottom of the topping was wet from the moisture from the cherries. I wouldn’t make this again.

PEACH ICE CREAM

This uses fresh peaches, milk, cream, salt, cornstarch, and peach nectar. It took just 23 minutes in the ice cream maker to thicken. The peach flavor is very subtle, as is the peach color. Because you can barely taste the peach I wouldn’t make this one again.

APPLE-CRANBERRY STREUSEL PIE

I left out the crust and cranberries, so this really isn’t a pie. In the topping I used light brown sugar instead of dark. I added salt to the apples, as well as cinnamon. The topping is pretty good but after processing it, it wasn’t like cracker crumbs but was thick and creamy. I dolloped it evenly over the apples and it spread out nicely. The top of it was crispy but the underside was moist from touching the apples. Not the best topping because it softens.

MY THOUGHTS: Though I’m happy with six of the eight things I made, I’m disappointed in this book. There are two more chocolate cake recipes and one brownie recipe in here but sadly I’m not comfortable making any of them because of how awful the one chocolate cake I made turned out. There are a few other ice cream/frozen custards I’d like to make and only a couple more baked goods.

There’s not a basic chocolate ice cream recipe in here. The one basic vanilla ice cream recipe has chopped chocolate added and was given a fancy unpronounceable name. I wish there were a few more fruit sorbet recipes, those using no dairy.

There’s not a photo of everything but there are quite a few and they’re beautiful.

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

 

SWEET MORNINGS: 125 Sweet and Savory Breakfast and Brunch Recipes by Patty Pinner

PUBLISHER: Agate Midway, 3/2016
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Sweet Mornings collects more than 100 sweet and savory options for breakfast and brunch. From donuts to crumb cakes to sweet rolls, these are the kind of treats that evoke feelings of warmth and comfort like only good, old-fashioned breakfast food can.

Author Patty Pinner has been collecting breakfast recipes for as long as she can remember. She comes from a long line of breakfast bakers, and many of the recipes in this book have been passed down from the “Greats”—great-grannies and -aunties—as well as cousins and other influential women in Pinner’s life. To pore through these recipes, and then to bake them at home, evokes in Pinner memories of the many women who created them. Pinner includes charming, often comical stories about her life and family throughout the cookbook.

With generations-old recipes that range from the familiar (Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes) to the fun (Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits), Sweet Mornings is a reliable, well-tested addition to any kitchen. These recipes are ideal for slow weekend mornings and afternoons when you want to lure family and friends to the table with the intoxicating aroma of a homemade sweet treat baking in the oven.

THINGS I’VE MADE

LEMON-CORNMEAL MUFFINS

These taste good and are very dense. No hand mixer required, just a mixing bowl and whisk. You can’t really taste the cornmeal and there’s only the slightest bit of grittiness from it. I omitted the blueberries. I used water in the glaze in place of lemon juice. I made half the recipe and got seven. Though these have good flavor, I don’t know if I’ll make them again because of their density.

MISS ROSE’S BACON QUICHE

This was very easy to make but it did have a few extra steps, including cooking the bacon. I left out the mushrooms and used a little less bacon than called for. I used a premade store-bought pie crust instead of making my own like the recipe called for. This was too much mixture for a standard 9″/1 qt. pie pan so I used one that was almost 10″. This was very good, made with eggs, milk, onion, bacon, and lots of cheese, but I think I’ll use precooked sausage next time instead of bacon and make just half.

CHOCOLATE SWIRL COFFEE CAKE

This is terrible, borderline unedible, and an epic fail. Dry, crumbly, and bitter bitter bitter from way too much unsweetened cocoa powder that wasn’t mixed with enough sugar  layered between the batter. I really wanted to use less but stuck to following the recipe.

The full recipe is to be made in a 9″ square baking dish and uses a staggering mixture of 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (that amount I suspect was a typo) and just three tablespoons of sugar in the swirl layer. I made half the batter and swirl mixture and baked it in an 8″ x 1 1/2″ round pan. The recipe didn’t state to stick a knife down into the batter and swirl it around to mix the chocolate layer in but I did it anyway. I’ve never heard of a ‘swirl’ cake that omitted that step. I made a chocolate glaze for it and that didn’t help at all.

MORNING APPLE CRISP

Very good. I left the cinnamon out of the topping and put it in the apple mixture instead. In the filling I used white sugar in place of brown sugar. I’m very familiar with baking apple crisps and I knew I wouldn’t want brown sugar in the mixture. This topping has too much brown sugar in it and the rolled (old fashioned) oats are very large and the mixture just sort of fell apart though it tasted good. In fact, the whole recipe uses way too much brown sugar.

The apples took a lot longer to bake than specified (35-45 minutes) in the recipe. I did use a slightly shorter baking dish so the apples weren’t spread out as much. Raw apples, like raw potatoes, take quite awhile to cook. After 40 minutes the topping browned as much as I wanted but the apples were still hard. I covered the top of the baking dish loosely with foil and let it bake for an additional 35 minutes. I used a 2.5qt/11″x7″ dish.

BLACKBERRY BUCKLE

This is very good. A buckle is cake batter that you top with fruit, fresh, frozen, or canned. The batter cooks up around the fruit, covering most of it. The recipe said to use a 9″ square dish (which is usually 2″ deep) but this was so much mixture. I smartly used a 10″x2.5″ 7c. capacity dish, and it was perfect.

I used slightly more than 2c. frozen berries, and it was a little too much. They weren’t as sweet as they should have been so I sprinkled close to 1/4c. white sugar on top, which gave the cooked cake a nice sweet top. Mine took 47 minutes to bake and the recipe stated to bake it 30-35 minutes. I didn’t make the crumb topping. I felt it was very unnecessary. This was very easy to make and I’d make it again. I also doubled the salt in the batter for a total of 1/4t. and it was perfect.

PUFFED CHERRY PANCAKE CASSEROLE

This is very good but it’s nothing like a pancake. It’s made with eggs, sugar, butter, flour, milk, and flavorings. It bakes up into a thick slab of firm custard and the cherries rise to the top.

I made half the recipe in a 1.5qt baking dish and baked it 25 minutes. It’s 1″ thick. I added a little almond extract to the mixture because of the cherries and used just a few dashes of cinnamon. It needed more salt so I added a little extra but that wasn’t enough. I think four tablespoons of butter was too much because it was squirting and running out of every crack so I’ll use half that amount next time.

I’m very happy with this and I’ll make it again. I already make a similar version. You could use fresh or frozen raspberries or blueberries in place of cherries, or chopped canned peaches.

LEMON-COCONUT BREAD

This was terrible. Dry, dense, flavor’s not good, and was a waste of ingredients. Most sweet quick breads are moist but this one is truly drier like yeast batter bread. I made half in a 1qt. loaf pan and baked it for 38 minutes. I was only able to eat two pieces of this before it went into the trash.

PEACH COBBLER

This recipe calls for fresh or canned peaches so I used three 15oz. cans of peach chunks and some of their juice. I used a 10″x2.5″, 7c. capacity round baking dish and it was barely deep enough. I added cinnamon to the peaches and left the nutmeg out of the topping. The topping is a very very sweet, thin eggless batter that gets poured evenly over the peaches. I added a little vanilla extract to it. It needed a little more salt but other than that, it’s very good. I’m happy with how this turned out.

MY THOUGHTS: Of the eight things I baked there are only four that I’d make again. None of the cakes turned out so I’d never bake another cake from this book. There’s also a mistake in the brownie muffin recipe. It calls for ‘semisweet cocoa powder’ when there’s no such thing. There aren’t many photos in this book either.

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

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THE COOKIES & CUPS COOKBOOK: 125+ sweet & savory recipes reminding you to Always Eat Dessert First by Shelly Jaronsky

PUBLISHER: Gallery Books, 4/2016
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Wildly popular Cookies & Cups blogger Shelly Jaronsky’s eagerly anticipated cookbook features all-new, mouth-watering, delectable sweet treats 100% guaranteed to make you want to eat dessert first.

Now you can bring Shelly’s signature style into your own kitchen with more than 125 no-fail recipes, including some reader-approved favorites and a special bonus section dedicated to the quick and savory side of cooking. Authored in the witty, intimate style of the blog that draws more than three million monthly page views and a social following of more than seven hundred thousand fans, The Cookies & Cups Cookbook is the go-to source for all things flavorful, accessible, and irresistibly tasty.

THINGS I’VE MADE

COOKIES AND CREAM COOKIES


I made half the recipe and got 28 cookies. I omitted the chopped Oreo’s and white chocolate chips. I added chopped lightly toasted slivered almonds and 1/4c. mini semisweet chocolate chips. My dough balls didn’t spread much at all during baking and were very thick. When they came out of the oven I flattened them with the back of a measuring cup. I flattened the rest of the dough balls before baking. These are bland-tasting, not sweet enough, and I’d never make them again. Dense too.

EPIC CHOCOLATE PUDDING PIE
This pie couldn’t have been easier to make. You bring ingredients to a boil on the stove, pour into prebaked pie shell and refrigerate for hours. I used a store-bought Keebler® shortbread pie crust and thawed frozen whipped topping instead of homemade whipped cream (I don’t like it). I made half the recipe. The pie is a little bitter and not quite sweet enough. I think it would still be bitter with less chocolate so next time I make it I’m going to use bittersweet chocolate in place of unsweetened to see if that helps.

CRISPY CHEWY OATMEAL COOKIES
These turned out great but needed a little more salt. I used unsalted butter when the recipe called for salted so I needed to add a little more salt than the recipe called for. I did but not enough. I omitted the coconut and white chocolate chips and added mini semisweet chocolate chips and finely chopped lightly toasted pecans. I’d definitely make these again. I made half and got 24 cookies. My first batch, pictured, were overbaked by about one minute and they got harder as they sat in a sealed container.

TACO PASTA
This was pretty good and required just one deep skillet to cook the pasta in then the meat mixture. It uses ground beef, taco mix, chili powder, cumin, corn, crushed tomatoes, salsa, shredded cheese.
I made half the recipe but used even less pasta than called for. I used about 1 1/2 c. dry (5oz) instead of 8oz. I omitted the black beans. The salsa almost ruined this as the flavors didn’t mesh with the other seasonings. I’ll definitely make this again, minus the salsa.

TEXAS SHEET CAKE
I made half of this chocolate cake in a 9″x1.5″ round pan*. The cake is made with equal parts butter and shortening, melted. It uses a small amount of unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s dense and very good. I added extra salt because I used unsalted butter, not salted like the recipe states. I made my own vanilla frosting for this, not the chocolate one in the recipe.
*An 8″x2″ round or square pan holds the same amount.

CATAGORIES: So You Think You Can Bake?, Eat Cake For Breakfast, Cookies, Brownies and Bars, Cake, Frosting, Pie, Party Snacks, Pizza and Pasta, Salads and Sammies, Family Favorites

MY THOUGHTS: I’m pretty disappointed in this book. I’ve made five things and there are only about six more I’d actually make and there’s no telling how they’d turn out.

Of the things I’ve made only two were what I’d call really great, the sheet cake and oatmeal cookies. The great thing about the oatmeal cookies is that you can add whatever you want to the batter if you’d like, like chocolate chips, chopped dried fruit or nuts.

There’s an attractive color photo for each and every recipe, which is very nice, and I love the cover. There’s maybe eight recipes that have silly childish sprinkles or cereal decorating the top or stirred into the batter, which is very unappealing to me as an adult.

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

 

HOLIDAY COOKIES: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More by Chicago Tribune Staff

PUBLISHER: Agate Surrey, 10/2014
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking/Cookies
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: For nearly three decades, the Chicago Tribune has run its annual Holiday Cookie Contest, asking readers to submit recipes that are both unique and meaningful to them. Each recipe is accompanied by a brief description or story explaining why the cookie is special to the reader and their family. The Chicago Tribune’s award-winning food writers and editors carefully consider these essays, select the finalists, and then publish winning recipes.

Good Eating’s Holiday Cookies is a comprehensive collection of the best holiday cookies as curated from nearly three decades worth of reader submissions. These delicious recipes represent an eclectic mix of traditional and modern recipes from diverse cultural background and skill levels, such as Tropical Nuevo Latino Cookies, Dorie’s Dark and Stormies, and Grandma Grump’s Peanut Butter Drizzles.

Complete with full-color photography and helpful baking tips, this gorgeous compilation brings the warmth and expertise of a cross-generational baking community home for the holidays. From cookie classics to twists on old standards, Good Eating’s Holiday Cookies provides the home baker with a plethora of possibilities for any holiday party.

THINGS I’VE MADE
JOAN’S LITTLE JOYS

I’m not impressed with these cookies at all. This baked cookie looks nothing like the one in the book. Based on the appearance of these cookies while they were baking, the way they were getting very brown around the edges before the minimum baking time was up, I realized the dough was exactly like a Linzer cookie, which is basically like a shortbread cookie; no egg, baking soda, or baking powder in the dough. The photo of the finished cookie in the book shows a very pale cookie that’s decorated with a green-tinted glaze. That’s why I decided to make it- because it looked nothing like a Linzer cookie. This type of cookie softens up soon after baking and makes for a terrible sandwich cookie. They taste good, though.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES WITH DRIED CHERRIES

This is a good-flavored sweet cookie that has ground oats in the dough. They’re a little dry. I omitted the white chocolate and added lightly toasted chopped slivered almonds, almond extract, and cherries to half the dough. To the other half I added mini semisweet chocolate chips and finely chopped almonds.

I used a 1T. cookie scoop/1 1/2″ diameter and got 36 dough balls. My cookies didn’t spread out like the ones in the photo did. If I ever make these again I’ll form the dough into a log that’s wrapped in plastic wrap, chill/freeze it and make slice-n-bake cookies out of it.


MY THOUGHTS: This is an attractive book, inside and out, but I’m very disappointed in it. I only like one of the two recipes I tried and there’s only about three more recipes I’d try.

 

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

FROZEN IN FEAR: A True Story of Surviving the Shadows of Death by Jane Carson-Sandler

PUBLISHER: True Directions, 6/2014
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir/True Crime
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: Jane Carson-Sandler, a native of Northern New Jersey, entered the US Air Force Nurse Corps in 1969 and retired in 1999 after serving 30 years of active and reserve duty. Seven years after entering the military, she was raped in her own home while her three year old son was lying beside her. Thirty eight years have passed. This notorious rapist and serial killer, known as the East Area Rapist (EAR), has raped 50 women and has murdered twelve people including men and women in California. He still has not been caught. With raw emotion, Jane’s story entails how she survived not only this trauma, but some other bruising encounters with death such as her battle with alcohol and other serious health issues. Through the Grace and love of God, Jane went from being a victim to a survivor. She describes her God inspired journey in making this transition in hopes of helping and inspiring others.

MY THOUGHTS: This book is very condensed yet very informative about Jane’s life. She survived a prolific California serial rapist in October 1976 (50 known victims) who went on to become a serial killer (The Original Night Stalker/ONS) of at least 10 people.

Jane’s had a very interesting life. She’s the daughter of a sometimes violent alcoholic electrician father and a mother who’s a nurse. She became a nurse herself and has lived throughout the U.S. and Europe and now resides in South Carolina with her third husband.

I really wish she had expanded on her experience with talking to prison inmates about being a rape survivor. I’d love to know what they had to say about her story, especially since some of them are rapists themselves.

She’s been a recovering alcoholic since 2003. I take issue with her comment, “God removed my addiction”. An addiction doesn’t get ‘removed’ by anything or anyone.

Jane’s known as victim #5 in this case. You can see her interviewed on The Original Night Stalker episode of I.D.’s Dark Minds, season 2, episode 1.

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.

HER LADYSHIP’S COMPANION by Evangeline Collins

PUBLISHER: Berkley Sensation, 5/2009
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England and Scotland, 1816
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: In the Scottish countryside of Selkirk, Lady Isabella Stirling resides at Bowhill Park, serving penance for a sin that nearly ruined her family. For five years she has been condemned to a loveless marriage and confined to the estate where she does little more than tend her rose garden. With her husband absent for months at a time and few visitors, Bella lives a lonely existence, denying the passions that burn within her very soul.

Then her cousin comes for a visit and makes an outrageous suggestion: what Bella needs is a lover. A hired lover. Despite her need, Bella says no. But soon Mr. Gideon Rosedale arrives-and he is at her service for two weeks. Indulging in what she intends to be a harmless flirtation, Bella is overcome by Gideon’s intoxicating presence. And when she at last permits him to satisfy her desires, she discovers she’s done the unthinkable-she’s fallen in love.

MY THOUGHTS: The story takes place in England and Scotland in 1816 and spans about ten months. The heroine is Isabella ‘Bella’ Stirling. She’s 24 and has been married to Lord Stirling, 34, for almost five years. He’s impotent and they have no relationship of any kind with each other and he’s rarely at home. He’s both physically and verbally abusive toward her. Bella is 5’8″ and has pale blond and violet eyes. She’s terribly unhappy. Her parents are dead and she’s got two brothers and two sisters who have never come to visit her.

The hero is Gideon Rosedale. He’s twenty-seven, 6’1″ and has dark brown hair and brown eyes. He’s a prostitute and has been for ten years. His mother was one and he doesn’t know who his father is. He was raised up in a brothel. Bella’s cousin, Esmé, hires him to ‘service’ Bella for two weeks. That’s how the hero and heroine meet.

Bella is so lonely and isolated. I think she became a bit obsessed with Gideon, especially after their original two week stay was over. She was so starved or affection that once she warmed up to him, she was not emotionally prepared to let him go. To me, she showed signs of being mentally unbalanced and seemed a bit immature. She also seems hypersexual. That combined with her overall emotional state made me wonder if she was bipolar. I feel she was a bit of a weak character, pretty passive with things that had nothing to do with Gideon.

Gideon seemed a little bland to me. I’d have liked to have known a bit more about his upbringing. I don’t think his character was developed quite enough. Bella’s surely wasn’t. We weren’t told a thing about her past; childhood, upbringing, nothing. I want to know why her siblings never came to visit her.

The sex scenes were very explict but ordinary and there were plenty of them. I was a bit surprised by one scene near the end involving something the hero did to the heroine. I’d give the sex an A-.

Overall, there wasn’t much going on in this story but sex. No real plot at all except toward the end when Bella’s husband pays her a visit. Though the heroine is married to another, she and Gideon have their happily-ever-after. How? You’ll have to read the book to find out! I grade this book 3.5 stars/B-.

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

 

BOUND BY THE HEART by Marsha Canham

PUBLISHER: Avon, 10/1984
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: Caribbean & Barbados, 1811/12
BODICE RIPPER? Yes
PURCHASE: link
AUTHOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: D

FROM PUBLISHER: Rescued from the stormy waters of the Caribbean, Summer Cambridge, daughter of the British governor of Barbados faced a new threat aboard the American ship Chimera. Captain Morgan Wade, the notorious buccaneer, brazenly ordered the young beauty to his cabin to be held for his own pleasure!

Summer fought him with the ferocity of a wildcat, but held by his insistent passion, she was swept by waves of desire she had never known, and was powerless to resist him.

Even as she returned to Barbados and the marriage that had been arranged for her, she still trembled with memories of those days and nights of forbidden passions, and of the man whose love would forever hold her heart captive.

MY THOUGHTS: I’m reviewing the out of print paperback from 1984, not the rewritten e-book, which has the rape scene removed.

Summer is blond with gray-green eyes. Her age was never given so I’ll assume she’s in her early twenties. She’s a typical, slightly boring heroine. Not very feisty like I prefer, especially in these older books.

The American hero, Morgan, is thirty-four years old and has long black hair and blue eyes. He buys cargo and guns legally then sells them to the French, then transports them to America. In typical bodice ripper fashion, he rapes Summer aboard his ship once or twice (page 35 of print book) and makes no apologies for it. That’s pretty much where his abuse of her ends.

I liked her terrible husband Bennett Winfield. He lost interest in her right after they married. He suspected her of harboring feelings for Morgan and a secret, and forbade her ever seeing him again and threatened to ruin her and her family if she did. He’s shown violence towards her too. I like him much more than I do Morgan.

The story spans about a little over a year, beginning in June 1811. This just wasn’t a good story at all. It fits my criteria of a mild bodice ripper; it had the typical arrogant hero, rape, a decent amount of time apart from each other (over a year), and evil secondary characters and lots of action involving ships.

Morgan’s slightly younger half brother, Stuart Roarke was just pointless in this story.

I liked the first 119 pages when Summer and her ten year old brother Michael were on Morgan’s ship then island, Bounty Key, but once she returned home about a third of the way into the story, boring throughout the rest of the novel. The last fifty pages or so was nothing but one ship fighting against another and I truly forced myself to finish the book. It majority was so uninteresting to me. I really feel like this historical romance turned into purely historical fiction. The only good thing I can say about this is that I love the cover.

Same review here.

 

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