Wolfe Island is now on Audible!


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I love listening to books – while I work making jewelry for minusOne jewelry, while cooking or folding laundry, while walking the dog. I understand many people can’t take in stories this way, but after two doctoral programs – one in English Literature and the other in teaching it – I find it difficult to sit down and read anymore, especially without a pencil. One must be productive, and I can be productive and escape with Audible both at once.

It was Audible narrator Rosalyn Landor bringing Lisa Kleypas’ historical romance regency series to life that inspired Wolfe Island. So I’m thrilled to have found a true actor – Cassandra Medcalf – to share Wolfe Island with Audible listeners.

Message me via Facebook for a promo code for a free download.

Review – The Everywhere Man – Victoria Gordon (1981)


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In honor of all the women who in 2017 fundamentally changed the conversation around sexual harassment, in honor of all the women who for a hundred years prior tried and failed, and in honor of those of us to come who will still speak truth to power, even in the face of new ASAP legislation (I speculate here) that will make accusing a white man of anything at all a criminal offense…I give you The Everywhere Man.

the everywhere man

Because, even if she claims she doesn’t, every woman wants a stalker.

Set in Australia, Alix is an architectural draftswoman with a talent for design and training German Shorthaired Pointers. Alix lost both her parents to a bushfire two years before, a sad fact that serves to motivate our heroine, at the awfully familiar sound of an Australian bushfire, out of the bush onto a busy highway at warp speed. She swerves into a ditch to avoid the hero. In the midst of an angry man rescue, she faints (ffs).

“Obnoxious, arrogant, conceited” Quinn Tennant pulls her out of the ditch. After Alix fails to show proper gratitude, Quinn asks, “Is it part of some Women’s Lib programme to be ungrateful, stroppy, and generally disagreeable?” (p. 17). Expressly claiming payment, he kisses her with “no crude savagery. Only a vast knowing” (p. 18, italics belong to the author). She tries and fails to claw-slap him (“Naughty, naughty” he chides), which is followed by laughter: “Why not relax? You’ve only one more kiss to finish the debt” (p. 19).

The professional rapes described in the story are metaphoric in scope. Victoria Golden, author of Always the Boss (1981) and Age of Consent (1985), among other 80s category romances, is presumably familiar with the issues of sexual predation in and out of the workplace.

Alix’s former fiancee and co-worker, a threadbare stereotype, steals her designs. New hero Quinn Tennant is not only her judge in dog shows, the landlord of her rented cottage, but also her boss. I won’t go into the details of the now-dated professional set-up for the central love scene. It includes a hotel suite, a drink in the boss’ face, a naked roll across the vast bed, an “athletic” dismount from the mattress, followed by a “sprint for the doorway”  (p. 114). Alix’s virtue remains intact because heroines can be out-and-out shrews when confronted with deflowering.

Fast forward through more dog shows to the happily-ever-after: The two are engaged to be married, and Quinn reveals he’s rescued Alix’ stolen designs. She promptly rips the short stack of drawings in half and quarters, saying “these are from the past; they don’t matter now” (p. 189).

What woman would rip up her original drawings? Who would expect her to?

It may mean nothing, but author Victoria Golden is a man, and the a.k.a. was born in response to the publisher’s claim that “no man” could write Harlequin category romance: “Gordon is widely believed to be the first man to seriously meet the challenge.”

I ask myself: is it one thing when readers consume toxic romance narratives imagined by other women, but another thing entirely when they’re crafted by a man (pretending to be a woman)?

My students tell me that it seems sometimes that I love these books, and sometimes that I hate them. Rarely in life am I this conflicted. True, someone can offer me one drink or another, and, faced with a hard choice, I’ll end up with both.

So I’ll end up with both here…

I love romance.

I hate this book.


Review – Liberated Lady – Sally Wentworth (1979)


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liberated lady wentworth.jpgThis is science folks. And a romance novel from 1979 titled Liberated Lady…? It could be the motherlode. The size of the TV studio camera on the cover screams Lacanian gaze, and Sally Wentworth is celebrated for 101 books on Goodreads. It’s the perfect storm. Talk to me, Goose.

Going in, here are my boy-crazy-yet-feminist (mark my epitaph) hopes for this love story:

  • some consent language, really erotic stuff, that will, you know, teach me to put what I want into words
  • a behind-the-scenes look at a TV studio in 1979
  • really good prose
  • not rape?

I’m not optimistic. First sign of trouble is the inside cover, a total turn on for us rape fetishists who are titillated by forced seduction…

Don’t try to deny what’s between us.

Alex took a purposeful step toward her as Sara raised her hands in a futile attempt to ward him off. But he merely caught her wrists. Briefly she tried to struggle, but he said harshly, ‘It’s too late, the fight’s over.’ And he pulled her into his arms.

His mouth covered hers hungrily, claiming possession, allowing no resistance. Desperately, Sara tried to break free, but she couldn’t escape the passionate torment of his lips, searching, demanding a response.

She made a little sound, deep in her throat an the hand she’d raised to hit him instead sank slowly onto his shoulder and crept around his neck…

That’s right. Just let it go, sisters.

For the entirety of the book he’s mad she won’t admit he turns her on, but then when they can finally agree that she’s totally hot for him, he gives her a job, a part-time PR gig because “she knows something about computers.” Bam. HEA.


the male chauvanist sellers

I need a hero.

But “sensitive, liberated men” aren’t in the cards for mainstream romantics. Take as another example, Silhouette Intimate Moments (1985) The Male Chauvinist by Alexandra Sellers. First off, I love camp shirts, but is he wearing jorts?

Language is important. Liberation, chauvinism. These things need words, and having them makes talking about the issues easier.

Andreas…seemed to epitomize the attitudes Kate had fought to escape–but his potent sensuality drew her into his arms. No “sensitive, liberated” man had ever had that effect on her.

See how we did that? We found the words to explain that male chauvinists are actually hotter.

Review – Dear Tyrant – Margaret Malcolm (1953)


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dear tyant malcolm

First published as Beloved Tyrant in 1953.

Thirty-five Ithaca College undergraduates are taking my first-year seminar Reading Popular Romance. In the footsteps of Carol Thurston and Janet Radway, we leaf through hundreds of roughed-up, red-edged books and mine the texts for what they are: artifacts of popular culture. One collective expression of an unarguably female imagination. The very act of reading is everyday citizen science. We ask ourselves, whatever will these women say next?

Don’t think it matters? Ithaca College’s ivy league neighbor, Cornell University, enrolled hundreds (~) of its undergraduates in a seminar to watch pornography. Students called it “the porn course.” My “trash class” is therefore in good company.

So what have we learned from Dear Tyrant? For one thing, something about a woman’s professional life in the 1950s. Goodreads reports that Margaret Malcolm wrote over 100 romance novels at Mills & Boon from 1940 to 1981. By the time Beloved Tyrant was published in 1953, she’d already written ten.

You’d think after reading hundreds of romance novels that by now the pleasure would be, you know, expected. But it was an unexpected pleasure to see in the pages of Margaret Malcolm‘s Dear Tyrant (1975) reference to Jane Eyre. It’s not unusual for authors of these old category romances to follow Brontë’s lead. Thousands of paperback romances were written before women could be issued credit cards in their own names, while marital rape was legal (legal until 1993 in all 50 states, my friends), when access to the Pill was decades away. One of the few jobs available to Harlequin’s heroines – or for women in general for that matter – was as a caretaker for homebound invalids or children. It shouldn’t have moved me overmuch when the character sees her own reflection in governess Jane Eyre. Still, I was tickled.

Because even in her eleventh book, Margaret Malcolm was having fun. Not only does her heroine laugh at the image of herself as Jane Eyre, but she also attends a masquerade ball, has to leave by the stroke of midnight, and loses a shoe in the throes of her speedy departure. A nod to Jane Eyre, and a wink at Cinderella.

Eleven books in, with eighty-nine to go? That’s about time a career romance writer taps her nose and says I got this, too.





Review – Blue Jasmine – Violet Winspear (1969)


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Originally published in hardcover in 1969 by Mills & Boon, Violet Winspear’s category line classic Blue Jasmine, had three Harlequin Romance line reprints by 1976. If there was to be a romance canon, Blue Jasmine might make the list.

But it’s impossible to review Blue Jasmine without the foundation of E. M. Hull’s The Sheik. It’s like trying to discuss Samuel Johnson without mentioning James Boswell. And really, why would you want to?

Blue Jasmine Violet WinspearE(dith) M(aude) Hull’s (1919) The Sheik is, in fact, an even surer ringer for the romance canon (again, if such a thing existed). The Sheik’s Ahmed Ben Hassan was played by Rudolph Valentino in a 1921 film adaptation to audiences who just couldn’t believe it. As a romance subgenre, it’s a long-time market win.

The two novels are similar enough in storyline and character development that I’ve had students argue Blue Jasmine is plagiarized. I say instead that Blue Jasmine is a worthy tribute that imitates to flatter.

Take as a goose-pimpling example the scene when the heroine realizes she’s trapped in a tent with the sheik, surrounded by his loyal entourage in the middle of the desert, and there’s no escape from his animal spirits…

In The Sheik by EM Hull:

Why have you brought me here?” she asked, fighting down the fear that was growing more terrible every moment.

He repeated her words with a slow smile. “Why have I brought you here?” Bon Dieu! Are you not woman enough to know?

And in Blue Jasmine by Violet Winspear:

I have no need of your money, so I fear it cannot buy your freedom. There is only one thing that can, and you are a surpassing innocent if you don’t know what it is.”

She stared at him, her eyes like bruised flowers in her pale, shocked face. “I don’t know,” she whispered.

“Really?” His eyes flicked over her. “With your unusual looks, you tell me you don’t know what a man means when he brings you to his tent. Ma belle femme, I think you do know.

the sheik EM HullBoth The Sheik and Blue Jasmine present typical Winspear heroes. If you remember, Winspear presents heroes who “frighten but fascinate…the sort of men who are capable of rape: men it’s dangerous to be alone in the room with.” Winspear, however, likely wouldn’t have loved Ben Hassan. Sadly, Diana, the heroine of The Sheik, is raped off-scene, repeatedly, and for several months (until she falls in love, as any woman would).

Although Blue Jasmine‘s sheik, Kasim ben Hussayn is a  Mr. Angrypants of the first order, heroine Lorna is yet spared rape. A Winspearean hero, a product of his time, would threaten, but never follow through (unless he was a captain of a sailing vessel).

Blue Jasmine first cover

original 1969 cover of Blue Jasmine

As for the heroines, Blue Jasmine‘s Lorna is independent, saucy, up for adventure. Diana in The Shiek is presented as all these things, but, in addition: boyish and unfeeling, an interesting corruption of womanhood that in the first quarter of the twentieth century might demand correction more so than by the late 1960s. But, of course, both heroines fall for their captors, succumbing (in similarly described pivotal scenes) on a far side of the enemies-to-lovers trope continuum.

After all is said and done, Winspear’s heroine, like Hull’s, is revealed (thank the Almighty Christian God) to have fallen for a European. Today’s popular romance market might not balk with singular voice at a bona fide Arab hero (and all of our gods please bless this guy), but in 1919 and 1969, a sheik had to look like a Princeton man.






Time to visit SWAN BAY…

Did you enjoy Wolfe Island? Go ahead and read it, if you haven’t already. And then read its sequel: Swan Bay. (Also available in paperback.)screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-2-07-53-pm

Simon Low is a rake. His name travels across New York on whispers and titters. Owner of a luxury department store in Manhattan, it’s his job to create desire. He makes women want things. At least, that’s what Chloe Swann’s brothers tell her. But her brothers must have the wrong man.

Simon is the most awkward man Chloe has ever met. When Simon visits his brother’s grave at the cemetery managed by Chloe’s family, he refuses to touch her. He can barely look at her, let alone seduce her. What in the world could he make her want?

But Simon has a secret. He and his twin shared an extraordinary connection, one that was lost when the two were separated during a storm. He’d always felt that connection. And then, with the single gulp of the river that had swallowed his twin, had not. Until he meets Chloe.

Now, Simon has the devil of a time telling her the truth…that he can feel her from the inside out. But he’d better tell Chloe soon, because, with the job of writing epitaphs for headstones, and a reputation as the Angel of Death, she’s used to telling people good-bye.

Set against the lush and gilded American landscapes of rural Northern New York and Manhattan in 1893, Swan Bay continues the story begun with Wolfe Island.


Review – The Wife Sharers – Arthur Adlon (1963)

I couldn’t pass this one by when I saw it in our local used book store.

Yes, the Main Street in my town still has a used book store. Aren’t you jealous? Good. Hold onto that feeling. Because jealousy is the quixotic principle that drives The Wife Sharersthe wife sharers

The story opens with Howard in his next door neighbor’s pool with his next door neighbor’s wife, Serena, while he hears his own wife’s laughter over the redwood fence separating them from his own house party next door. The opening scene of this pulp novel is its best.

Swimming noiselessly as a pair of otters in the darkened pool, Serena and Howard could hear the drowsy chatter of the Lowes’ barbecue party…Howard Lowe could hear Enid’s shrill laughter on the other side of the fence…Most of the party hounds were trying to drink themselves cool this oppressive California night. That bearded goat, Mal Wenk, or some other tipsy oaf, had probably pinched Enid where she liked it. At the moment, Howard could not have cared less.

It’s California in the early sixties. There’s a lot of drinking. A ton of it. So much you worry about the characters’ health and safety. Especially Howard, who with his size, is really putting a strain on his heart.

The cover headline promises, “They agreed to share wives.” In point of fact, they didn’t agree on anything. It’s all a big con. A heretofore committed couple is convinced that their respective spouse wants what’s on the other side of the fence, and each is persuaded to let it happen.

Howard is smart (he’s a technical writer for an aerospace firm). He’s well-built. He’s chided as a “big ape,” a “caveman,” a “big brute,” but his stomach is flat (in spite of a lot of pancakes and steak), and he’s handsome. He’s rich and drives a jag. He’s the hero, I guess. At least the reader is led to believe he’s the preferred protagonist.

I’m like Enid and Serena. I adore big men. In spite of it, this is the most depressing HEA I’ve ever read. Of course, it’s not an HEA. It’s a work of pulp fiction, written by a man in 1963. So an HEA is not the point. I’m wondering, really, what was the point. The cover might give it away – a work of commercial fiction, the point was to sell books. Something this cover would have done in spades. Hell, I bought it, and for ten bucks.

Serena is the woman next door who problematizes the neighborhood barbecue by finding Howard more attractive than her common law husband, Mal Wenk. She is “the kind of girl a man dreamed about – too terrific to be true…sex ultrapersonified.”

Does the author really believe that women walk around naked and play with their nipples while waiting for a man like Howard to show up?

Mal is described as a ponytail poet with a beard like Maynard G. Krebs and a pot belly. A beatnick Pan. Mal sleeps each night on a straw mat on the floor of of the dining room. He is irredeemable. In the end, Mal’s beard is removed with scissors by Howard’s lithe and loving wife, Enid, while he’s asleep.

His shearing is a punishment for his writing a book about Enid. He is using their swap as a way to see into the life of a mousy housewife. Her removal of Mal’s beard is Enid’s symbolic “other side,” the finale of her character’s arc.

Husband Howard on the other hand doesn’t get through to anywhere. He spins in place. Howard loves Enid, from beginning to end. That’s a point in his favor. But he sleeps around, almost addictively, and collects phone numbers from waitresses across the city. His cheating is childish: his logic is flawed, and his lovemaking half-hearted. He ends up in bed with Enid’s best friend, falling drunkenly to sleep after fighting off her advances, until he wakes up at dawn inside her.

When he and Enid reunite in the end, there’s no triumph; it’s only a matter of course that he will continue cheating, continue to love her, and that they will both continue to be carried along on a current of booze and California swimming pools.

At least Adlon gets it. He knows his characters are depressing. That the lovemaking he describes isn’t really loving. That the sex he offers readers is sad, short-lived and unthrilling. This book isn’t meant to arouse readers like a woman’s HEA. This book was written for a man, a reader who believes in the addictive perseverance of marriage and the grotesque disappointment of what lies on the other side of that fence.

Folks, I’m not that reader. There’s still oodles of joy in the swims and the pinches.

Review – Arctic Enemy – Linda Harrel (1981)

Arctic EnemyArctic Enemy Harrel romance cover art by Linda Harrel (1981) puts journalist Sarah Grey on supertanker Arctic Enterprise during its the maiden voyage through the Northwest Passage, and earns my esteem by spelling ‘grey’ the right way.

The trip is perilous indeed. The Enterprise is designed to load up on liquid gas then nose its way through the ice of the ocean with its highly combustible cargo. Unfortunately, the book’s anti-hero has built the Enterprise with substandard materials, something breaks in the middle of the ocean, and our true hero – Captain Guy Court – must save the day. Which he does. But not before he and Sarah snowmobile out into the arctic countryside, get caught in a storm, and almost make love in an igloo.

It’s a standard hate-at-first-sight / he-thinks-she’s-sleeping-with-the-bad-guy plot line, seasoned with interesting arctic trivia. Did you know that icebergs “calf”?

But enough about global warming.

I’m developing book three of my Diamonds on the Water series, titled The Hard Dock. Yes, I’m really going to title a historical romance that I actually hope to sell The Hard Dock. Because docking can be hard, as anyone who’s ever tried it knows.

The Hard Dock‘s hero – Michael Low – is captain of a tugboat. The heroine – Dorrie Tremont – is a stowaway who gets herself into more trouble than Mick can manage alone. Together, they make a great team. In spite of his angry-man reserve and her counter-phobic pluck.

An actual hard dock is my preferred corner of the Thousand Island Region of Upstate NY, where this series is set in 1893. It’s a concrete dock in a busy spot of the river channel, from where I can swim, watch large freighters pass, and spy on hard-bodied youth as they hurl themselves, heads foaming with shampoo, from the adjacent wooden pavilion dock. The hard dock is less populated, more to my liking.

The point of this summer-nostalgic mawk is that I selected Arctic Enemy because I thought it would be valuable research for The Hard Dock.

Anyone who’s ever written a romance knows there’s no better introduction to scientific and historical fact than another romance author.

Alas, the sexiest moment in Arctic Enemy is when Harrel somehow channels Jean-Luc Picard six years before Next Generation launches its version of the Enterprise.


I wish.

Shot of Love: U.S. Romance Readers Outnumber Gun Owners

Robert McGinnis_Green dress

artist, Robert McGinnis

Did you know they stopped counting?

The last time anyone counted the number of romance readers in America was 2005, when marketing research group Corona Insights conducted a nationwide telephone survey for the Romance Writers Association (RWA).

The conclusion was that in that year 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel. In 2002, it was estimated at 51.1 million romance readers in America. In 1998, 41 million readers.

Ten years later, I predict that number has increased, based on the rise of self-publishing, the advent of the eBook, and the explosion of the erotica market. It’s been a big decade for reading in general, and romance has been a principal in the revolution.

Corona’s figures at the time were extrapolated by a definition of romance that adapted to readers. According to Kevin Raines, the CEO and founder of Corona who worked on the 2005 survey, although RWA had a strict definition of ‘romance’, survey respondents were allowed to self-identify the genre.

This still makes sense to me. What’s triumphant and pleasurable to some is not to others. If romance readers have learned one thing from their reading experience, it’s this.

So how do we extrapolate new numbers without cold-calling 1,200 Americans?

From 1998 to 2005, according to Corona’ s figures, the US population of romance readers saw an average annual 8% growth, a number too large to apply going forward at liberty.

In fact, based on revenue alone, RWA claimed in 2005 that romance fiction generated $1.4 billion in sales. However, that reported number has since dipped, with RWA reporting $1.08 billion in revenue in 2013, a 22.8% drop.


Robert Maguire, artist, I Prefer Girls

But it’s likewise not feasible to calculate the number of readers from the amount of money spent.

Perhaps this could have been possible when Harlequin dominated the market with paperbacks at 60 cents a copy. But, with the rise of both digital publishing and indie romance writers, and the birth of 99 cent and free marketing, any new calculation of the number of romance readers must take into account the format of the books we read — print, digital, or audio — and by extension, how much we spend.

RWA now also reports the frequency of consumption. In the first quarter of 2014, according to the Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey, 25.5% of readers read more than one book a week. The algorithm designed to extrapolate the number of romance readers with all these variables would be muddy indeed.

Statisticians counting gun owners seem more inclined to make a reckoning.

woman and man with gun 1950s

artist, Robert McGinnis

Guns are a lot like romance novels. People advocate on their behalf. Collect them. Buy them with variable frequency. Sometimes lie about the number they own. And, like romance novels, most guns don’t need to be registered.

Somehow, in spite of these vagaries, credible numbers are reported.

According to University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, the number of people who reported having a gun in their home in the 1970s averaged about 50 percent, the 1980s averaged 48 percent, the 1990s at 43 percent and 35 percent in the 2000s. Now, numbers are being reported at an all-time low of 30%. By my count, that’s 72.8 million American adults.

(I removed all minors from the calculation, because until they’re 18, they can’t vote, drink, or complete a Gallup poll. Yes, I know. They’re gun-owners. But they also read romance novels at as fast a clip as adults, so the populations cancel each other out.)

Based on the most recent numbers we have, and the arguable trend upwards in romance consumption and the reported trend downward in gun ownership, romance readers by now may actually outnumber gun owners.

That’s good news.

For centuries, moralists have cautioned women against reading too many romance novels for fear that we’ll all begin to love one another a little too freely.

titllated by reading

Titillated by reading. Artist unknown.

If you haven’t read Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote, try it as an example. And then the preface or front matter of any of the “seduction novels” of the 18th century. For something more contemporary, try this New Republic article, which suggests that romance readers are “bathetic and bromidic and brain dead”. The free love described is not the ruin of virgins by rakes, rogues and scoundrels. Ironically, it’s the plight of men this author now laments, and their “ninety minutes of torture” by female, middle-class (oh?) partners titillated by smut.

I’m on board with both logic statements. Romance leads to sex; guns lead to violence.

I advise therefore that all of us bathetic, bromidic and brain dead Americans keep reading until we can say with certainty the number of romance readers surpasses the number of gun owners.

Americans now choked by violence will breathe more easily, albeit with a little hitch and gasp of pleasure.

Review – The Little Nobody – Violet Winspear (1972)


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A Romance Canon, one as staid and firm (and stout) as Harold Bloom‘s should include Violet Winspear, whose corpus includes over 90 titles written for Mills & Boon. I love her name almost as much as I love Foyle’s War’s Honeysuckle Weeks.

The Little Nobody was chosen for the alpha hero lurking beyond it’s title.

Violet Winspear The Little Nobody

With a little nobody, a Big Somebody must be in there somewhere.

Violet Winspear is known for (notorious for at one time) her alpha heroes: angry, incomprehensible heroes and our future bodice rippers. In 1970, she explained:

I get my heroes so that they’re lean and hard muscled and mocking and sardonic and tough and tigerish and single, of course. Oh and they’ve got to be rich and then I make it that they’re only cynical and smooth on the surface. But underneath they’re well, you know, sort of lost and lonely. In need of love but, when roused, capable of breathtaking passion and potency. Most of my heroes, well all of them really, are like that. They frighten but fascinate. They must be the sort of men who are capable of rape: men it’s dangerous to be alone in the room with.

The category line Winspear helped to launched has pervasive arm-gripping, angry kissing, and even spanking. Still, she got a little flack for that.

The Little Nobody is only #15 in the original Harlequin Presents line (of thousands). A more recent Harlequin line of the same name has the same mission as the original:

You want alpha males, decadent glamour and jet-set lifestyles. Step into the sensational, sophisticated world of Harlequin Presents, where sinfully tempting heroes ignite a fierce and wickedly irresistible passion!

The little nobody is Ynis Raiford. She is newly arrived on a dark and stormy night to a gothic castle on the Cornish Cliffs (Cornwall, England) called the Sea Witch.

Her name – Raiford – is not even hers. It’s borrowed from her stepfather, a con man serving time as a result of his designs on the hero’s fortune (a part of it at least). The hero – Gard St. Clair – is a former maestro whose arm was injured by a freak storefront accident, and then severed from his body at the shoulder by a surgeon, unaware he was operating on a famous conductor because Gard’s wallet had been stolen from him by a pickpocket while he was still unconscious and bloody beneath the shattered pane of glass. So, when Ynis’ petty thief stepfather was caught trying to steal from Gard a couple years later, our hero was still a little touchy and unforgiving. Ynis ventures to the Sea Witch to persuade maestro Gard to drop the charges, but finds the hero a tad embittered by pickpockets, his missing arm, and, presumably, the bad weather.

The bad weather is important, because after Gard declines Ynis’ request to free from prison the only family she’s ever known, she runs out into the dark, stormy night and is deservedly hit by a car. She awakes back at the Sea Witch with amnesia and a ring on her finger. Gard claims she’s his fiancé.

Readers of this line are given no insight into the thoughts and feelings of heroes beyond their actions and smoldering looks of incomprehensible rage, but we can assume the hero feels guilty, or something.

So there we have it. Add another woman – “his old love, the beautiful actress Stella Marrick” – and the set-up is a typical 1970s Mills & Boon pretzel-plot.

Of significance…Ynis has been living in a convent for the better part of her life. Though the Reverend Mother tried to convince Ynis to take orders, instead Ynis wants to see the world. She’s at her hills-are-alive moment when this book begins.

What the heroine’s convent background provides is a nice dose of virgin envy. Yes, it’s a real thing. And Winspear knows how to work it.

He didn’t care a rap she found him more fearful than fascinating. He seemed to her to enjoy the fear which she felt. ‘There are certain terrors known only to a girl,’ he said. ‘The fact is fascinating to a man, and that’s the bare truth.’

Virgin envy. I’m green with it.