The first is THE PROMISE OF JENNY JONES by Maggie Osborne. It’s out of print now, but is probably the most unusual romance I’ve ever read. For starters, the heroine is almost six feet tall, cusses, smokes cigars, and works as a muleskinner. (For you contemporary readers, that means she drives a freight wagon pulled by mules). Early in the book we learn what makes Jenny tick. She is stuck in a Mexican jail for killing a soldier who tried to rape her. She explains why she wouldn’t lie to save herself from a firing squad.
"Honesty is all I’ve got . . .I don’t have family. I don’t have beauty, or a man. I don’t have money, and I sure as hell don’t have a future. All I’ve got to prop up my pride is my word . . . When Jenny Jones says something, you can bet your last peso it’s true."
But she does have a future because a dying woman trades places with her, and so begins her eventful journey. All of Maggie Osborne’s heroines are unusual women.
LORD PERFECT and MR. IMPOSSIBLE are by Loretta Chase. Choosing between these books would be difficult, but I lean toward the former. What is better than watching a perfect man’s world crumble because of a strong yet unsuitable woman? I love all of Loretta Chase’s books for her wonderful descriptions and unusual characters. And what lovely names she uses! I love the way Loretta Chase introduces the hero in LORD PERFECT.
The artist heroine, Bathsheba Wingate, watches the hero in the book’s opening. The setting is a London museum and the hero is Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne, heir to the Earl of Hargate (and Lord Perfect).
He leant against the window frame, offering those within the exhibition hall a fine rear view of a long, well-proportioned frame, expensively garbed. He seemed to have his arms folded and his attention upon the window, though the thick glass could show him no more than a blurred image of Picadilly.
Supremely assured. Perfectly poised.
Immaculately dressed. Tall. Dark.
It was clear in any case that the exhibition within—of the marvels Giovanni Belzoni had discovered in Egypt—had failed to hold his interest.
The woman surreptitiously studying him decided he would make the perfect model of the bored aristocrat
He turned his head, presenting the expected patrician profile.
It wasn’t what she expected.
She couldn’t breathe.
In the next scene, the hero describes the heroine in such delightful detail that I believe it's perfect:
She was the sort of woman who made accidents happen, simply by crossing the street.
She was the sort of woman who ought to be preceded by warning signs.
From a distance, she was breathtaking.
Now she stood within easy reach.
And now . . .
Once, in the course of a youthful prank, Benedict had fallen off a roof, and briefly lost consciousness.
Now, as he fell off something and into eyes like an indigo sea, he lost consciousness. The world went away, his brain went away, and only the vision remained, of pearly skin and ripe plum lips, of the fathomless sea in which he was drowning . . . and then a pink like a sunrise glowing upon finely sculpted cheekbones.
A blush. She was blushing.
His brain staggered back.
Sigh, can you blame me for studying Loretta Chase’s writing?
PRINCE CHARMING and FOR THE ROSES are by Julie Garwood. These are her only forays into western historicals. PRINCE CHARMING begins in England, but moves through the U.S. to Montana. I love both the heroine Taylor Stapleton, and the hero Lucas Ross. FOR THE ROSES has a group of ragtag boy heroes who raise a young baby they find in a New York dustbin. Sounds impossible? Unfortunately, it still happens every day in America. These characters come alive for the reader.
Rereading these books still brings me pleasure and helps me understand the structure that keeps me engaged. None is the first romance I read, but they continue to be my favorites.
What are your favorite romances?
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