Book Review

Beloved Betrayal by Carol Finch - A Guest Review by RedHeadedGirl


Title: Beloved Betrayal
Author: Carol Finch
Publication Info: Zebra Splendor 1988
ISBN: 978-0821723463
Genre: Historical: American

It’s time to get back to my roots- a hot pink (HOT. PINK. With bonus rearing horse!) Zebra romance I picked up, oh, ages ago- somewhere between my high school heydays of romance, and coming back to the fold a couple years ago.  It was clearly from a free pile somewhere, and it’s everything you’d expect from a late 1980’s Zebra romance and MORE.  No Texan Viscount, though- I feel like that stays in it’s own category of crazysauce.


I think I picked this up something like seven years ago, and read it, and (apparently) liked it enough to keep it and cart it around to four different houses and three moves.  Now I'm wondering what the hell was in my head, except that I'd gone through a years long phase where I hadn't read any romance at all, because I was trying to be an adult (overrated).  So any water tastes good to the parched girl in the desert?  And it's been sitting on my shelf in all of its hot pink glory, and I remembered the disguises being awesome?  But I don't remember being so tired of it by the end.  I'm not so parched for romance now (books, I mean.  Real life?  ugh.) so I'm not guzzling whatever I can find in the freebie piles anymore.


(I’m actually starting the summary before I event finish, because this is FULL of the crazy-sauce, and I don’t want to forget things.)

So our heroine is Sabrina (of course) Spencer.  She’s an actress in 1863 America, touring with a troupe and having quite the following because she’s Just. That. Awesome.  With amazing legs.  She has purple eyes.

Our hero is Ridge Tanner, who as an infant was kidnapped by the Apache (his adoptive mother wanted a baby, and didn’t have any luck getting pregnant, so her husband, one of the leaders of their particular tribe, went out and got about 100 sheep and a baby for her).  He grew up as the son of tribal leaders, and didn’t realize that he was white until his father was like “so….I know you think you should be considered for leadership when I kick it, but you’re not.  Cuz, you’re white.  Sorry no one mentioned it before.”  Ridge then went on his manhood walkabout (or something along those lines) and came back to discover his tribe massacred by an enemy tribe, and then- I think- went and found his birth family, and got educated in the white world and is now the Indian Agent for New Mexico.


Anyway, Sabrina is in Chicago with her troupe, about to go to Boston for a HUGE show, lots of money, blah blah, when she gets a telegram that her father has been killed while under a court martial for crimes as of yet unspecified.  She quits, makes her way down to Missouri, disguises herself as an old, fat widow named Samantha Stewart and hires Ridge to take her to Santa Fe so she can find out what happened and clear her father’s name.  She intends to stay veiled and uses makeup to make herself look old and crabby to keep herself safe during the journey.

You can guess how well THAT works out.  She snipes at Ridge for being a manwhore and generally does all the things one expects a cranky old dowager she-dragon beldam to say (all words used to describe her), but he also notices that she doesn’t move like he’d expect someone who actually weighed what she appeared to weigh should move, and few other things were off, and he REALLY wanted to see what was underneath that veil, so he gets her passing out drunk, and finds out about the make up, realizes that she’s young and hot and kisses her (while passed out) and realizes that he COULD have his way with her, but he’s not a rapist.

Well, good for you, Ridge.  Would you like a “Congrats for being a basically decent human being”  cookie?

(Okay, look. I do understand the concept of “oh, hey look at this horrible thing I could totally do, if I wanted, that is totally morally reprehensible.  I’m not going to do it, because it is terrible and morally reprehensible, but I will entertain the idea for whatever cathartic reason I need at the moment.” Best example that won’t scare the crap out of you guys is during an exam first year, I had no idea what the Model Penal Code (yes Sarah, I hear you snickering. Penal) had to say about Strict Liability Crimes, and I went to the bathroom, and found myself staring at my locker, which had my textbook in it.  I could have gone and looked it up, and probably, no one would have seen.  I didn’t because a) that would be cheating and b) that “probably” was not good enough odds to try it.  My point is, I admit that I do this, and I don’t demand Basically Decent Human Being cookies for not following through on my thoughts.)

Anyway, Sabrina wakes up with the mother of all hangovers, and somehow ends up naked and Ridge is like “LET THE SEXY TIMES COMMENCE” and because this is 1988 and we are still at that point in the development of the romance narrative, Sabrina doesn’t want to and he’s all insistent and she submits and then is mad at him, and he can’t figure out why.

So not even a “Congrats on being a basically decent human being” cookie, then.

THEN they run into an old man and his granddaughter who’s ranch just got burned out by a band of Native Americans (We will get into the depiction of Native Americans, I promise).  Clarice, the granddaughter, decides that Ridge is the greatest thing since sliced bread (except there is no sliced bread yet, so he’s the greatest thing EVER) and sets her cap (and everything else) for him, while the grandfather decides this widow/dowager/she-dragon/beldam that HE NEVER SEES WITHOUT HER VEIL is the best thing ever and starts courting Sabrina.

The four of them make it to a fort, and Sabrina tries to have a heart-to-heart with Clarice, finally telling her that Ridge is just a manwhore ho would never be true to her, and to prove it, Clarice should park herself at Ridge’s window and she’ll see that he’s so controlled by his dick that he’ll even fuck an old woman. So Sabrina goes in, and they start making out, and Clarice flips outs and marches them to the chaplain with a shotgun and demands that they get married. So they do.

(at this point, it is important to remember that Ridge still thinks Sabrina is Samantha Stewart.)

Sabrina and Ridge then leave to go on to Las Vegas (a “sleepy little pueblo”) and she changes her disguise into that of a nun- he made her promise to put the widow’s weeds away- and he’s all pout out about that.  Then they get to Las Vegas, and she gets dragged into a discussion with the local priest, and Ridge finds himself on the receiving end of an attempted seduction by a local Spanish whore.  Sabrina sees the attempt part, but not the “NO THANK YOU FOREVER” part, and rides off to Santé Fe on her own, thinking Ridge is a horrible cheating manwhore and she never wants to see him again NOT EVER. Ridge, doesn’t realize Sabrina saw him and just thinks SHE’S a flighty chit who is a terrible, horrible, no good person BUT HE IS STILL MARRIED TO HER GODDAMNIT.


At this point, I’m just tired.  He finds out who she is really when she’s performing in Santa Fe under Yet Another Assumed Identity, and finally they actually have it out and determine that their goals are the same, they sort of work together in between bouts of acrobatic fucking.

The whole “Sabrina goes to solve her father’s murder/mysterious court martial” plot is confusing, but there were guys at the fort who were smuggling supplies out and her father figured it out, and so they had to eliminate him, whatever.  Sabrina and Ridge sort it out, and then decide that they are just Too Different and their relationship would Never Work, and she goes back to her theater troupe in Boston.

Oh, and pregnant.

So a year passes, Sabrina and the theater troupe are in Washington, as is Ridge, while he’s trying to save the Navajo from extinction.  He finds her at a party, and then finds out she had a kid, and first gets mad that she jumped into bed with another dude after he taught her all about the sex, then figures out (from doing the math, even though no one told him how old the kid was) that he was the father, then gets all mad that she never told him.

They fight and he says “you and the baby are coming to New Mexico!” and she’s all “MY CAREER ASSHOLE” and

Okay, other than the over wrought prose, and I really wish this were an ebook file so I could find out exactly how many time the word “chit” was used, this book has just too much going on.  TOO FUCKING MUCH.  One of the many differences I’ve seen in a lot of the Old School historical and the more modern historicals is a toning down of plot.

All that said, the constant use of disguises is really awesome ridiculousness.  The fact that she thought she’d be able to get away with it, being a dowager widow beldam all the way from Independence, MO to Santa Fe is insanity in the best way.

What drove me crazy about these two, other than her wide, trembling violet eyes, is that CONSTANT jumping to conclusions and making huge decisions bashed on those conclusions.  “You are clearly fucking another woman!” and instead of busting through the door and being all “THE HELL YOU SAY” Sabrina just hops on a horse and goes.  By herself.  From Las Vegas to Santa Fe.  Or “YOU HAVE A BABY CLEARLY YOU HAVE BEEN FUCKING ANOTHER MAN (even though we had no understanding of our relationship and mutually broke it off, but WHATEVER I AM STILL ANGRY).” Stop.  Think for half a second and maybe try to have a conver-

Who am I kidding?  These two have never had a real conversation with anyone ever.

The final thing to talk about is the subplot of Ridge and the Navajo reservation.  (The governor or commander of the fort in New Mexico decides he wants the reservation land, and plans to move all the Navajos from the current, more-or-less adequate reservation to a much worse reservation that the Navajo get because it’s such shitty land no one else wants it.  Ridge is trying to prevent that.)  It feels a little shoehorned in, like the author had an agenda, which is fine, I have agendas with reviews all the time.  But the thing about it that gives me a bad taste in my mouth is the whole Mighty Whitey trope.  Ridge has been raised by Native Americas, and because the Best Native American that ever Native Americaned, and is now determined to save them by working from within the government

I mean, it kind of makes sense, right?  He can walk both sides, blah blah blah, but I’m not convinced that it’s that reasonable to expect that the government and society would be that thrilled about a dude raised by “savages” trying to tell them what to do.  And the trope of “white dude that does better than the natives at being a native” is SO overdone and frankly damaging that I hated it.  But I was not inclined to like Ridge all that much anyway, with his Alphole tendencies.

But the audacity of Sabrina disguising her away across the American southwest is so over the top that I can’t flunk this book flat out.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jeannie S. says:

    Alphole?? LOL I’m glad I wasn’t drinking my coffee while reading that. I think I enjoy the reviews for bad romance more than the ones for keepers, they’re so much more entertaining. 

  2. 2
    Katie says:

    I would love to read the scene when Clarice seems him making out with the “old woman”—that sounds hilarious!

  3. 3

    At least she didn’t disguise herself as a man.

    While I understand that there are women who have a figure that with some wrapping and the whole wears-trousers-must-be-male mindset could pass as male, why do books that have woman-as-man always talk about the woman’s ‘curves’ as well?

    Sorry to thread-jack!

  4. 4

    Holy crap I sort of want to buy this and then give it to people just to see the looks on their face afterward when they try to avoid speaking to me ever again. People like my mother in law and that nosy lady down the street and …. Excuse me I need to go to amazon now. 

  5. 5

    >>Well, good for you, Ridge.  Would you like a “Congrats for being a basically decent human being”  cookie?<<

    This made me laugh out loud.  So glad I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time!

  6. 6
    Deb G. says:

    Sadly, I think I’ve read this book before. :(

  7. 7

    @Xahne: That’s a legit criticism.  And apparently the power of Sabrina’s legs (much less her hips and boobs) are such that no one would have bought it.  Or something. 

    I’m not up on 19th century make up, so does anyone know if the make up at the time could have done the whole “made a young face look old and stuff” thing? 

  8. 8
    Barb in Maryland says:

    A bit of FYI:  there is a town in NM named Las Vegas—it is east of Santa Fe.  So dear Sabrina didn’t head all the way to Nevada,as Las Vegas of neon lights fame wasn’t founded til 1905.
    So, phew, one less bit of WTFery to cope with.
    Loved the review, think I’ll skip the book.

  9. 9
    Donna says:

    Looking back over 40 (garg… FORTY!!) years of dedicated romance reading, I have to say sometimes I really miss the crazysauce over the top hot mess that was romance back in the day. Then I unearth some Laurie McBain or Valerie Sherwood from under the bed and get it out of my system. Thanks for the awesome review RHG.

  10. 10
    Darlynne says:

    Dear RHG: I love your reviews, particularly because they remind me of Abby Normal from Christopher Moore’s urban vampire series (Bite Me, et al.), which I hope you recognize as the huge praise it is. Taking the overwrought dialog of 1980s romance novels and turning it into your contemp speak (yes, I made that up) always makes my day.

  11. 11
    Noelinya says:

    I didn’t remember before beginning your review but I read this book ! I agree with you about all the WTFery and all the “jumping to conclusion is just more funny for this plot” things !!

  12. 12
    MaddBookish says:

    Ahh, the ‘80! Back when it was totally ok for media to depict unconscious ladies getting done without so much as a drunken snore of consent.

    16 Candles, I love you, but seriously. A guy hands his super drunk sort of girlfriend off to some guy and basically says “Have fun, just makes sure you drop her off at home when you’re done!”

  13. 13
    Shamb99 says:

    I actually really like the cover. Yes the color pink is a bit much and its hard to understand how the pink acid got all over the landscape. But check out the pose! She seems to be on top! Plus she is in blue, and I like blue and women in blue. The random horse is just magical!

  14. 14

    I like her dress, if it had more sleeves than that I’d wear it, but you can keep the rest.

  15. 15
    Beautyunknown says:

    Very Descriptive Lol. Anyways in serious need of Followers here. Just started a book blog. Here’s the link- http://immabkreviewer.blogspot&#8230;

  16. 16
    kkw says:

    I was reading a Miranda Neville book the other night which was…meh, well, at least engaging enough to ignore the TV, until my boyfriend started laughing.  Apparently some guy on Law and Order was using the best ever defense against a rape charge: I thought she was dead.  Seriously though, it was in the late 80s that I overheard a couple of BC students on the train arguing about whether it was rape to have sex with someone who was passed out (the consensus was that it was not, because she hadn’t said no). Not much I miss about those days, but the romance novel covers were pretty amazing.

  17. 17

    Had to suppress so many giggle-snorts that now people think something is wrong with me.

  18. 18
    Starropal says:

    It’s been a while since I read up on the subject, but my fuzzy memory wants to say, yes, by the late 1800s such practical effects/stage make-up was happening.
    In fact a lot of stage actors brought their techniques with them when moving pictures came into being. Most notably Lon Chaney.

  19. 19
    Susan says:

    Loved the review.

    Did people in the American West in those days (or any days) actually use the word “chit” in that context?  (I mean, not as an IOU/marker kind of thing?)  I tend to think of it as being more historical Brit-speak.

    She’s the bestest actress ever, but can’t fool anyone with her disguises?

    You know, as crazy as this sounds, this is pretty typical of the historical romances I read back then, some of which I still harbor a secret, guilty tendre for.  They kind of have to be judged in the context of the day.  I will say, tho, that the historical romances with all the asshat, dub con behavior were a little easier for me to take than the contemporaries.  The historicals were outrageous fantasy, but the same crap was being passed off as realistic and acceptable in the contemps.

  20. 20
    DONNA says:

    Abby Normal rocks my stripey socks!  She and the RHG snark very hard with dead on accuracy.

  21. 21
    Dannielle says:

    HaHaHaHaHaHaHa OMFG I had this book! Its been years but I remember reading this and wanting to give myself a lobotomy while reading it because it was so horrible. Unfortunately I have this really bad habit of finishing every book I start, no matter how much I can’t stand it. Sadly the only notable exceptions are text books, some pompous lit, and the ones about vampires that sparkle.  Thankfully I’m sure it was either a thrift shop special or a junk pile freebie, so I only wasted a few hours of my life rather than actual money.

  22. 22
    Beggar1015 says:

    I agree with you about missing the craziness. Say what you will about old skool, but at least something was happening! Historical romances nowadays, I’m discovering, just don’t seem to have much going on. The most recent book I finished had a dreadfully long house party and that was it. Yawn. Give me a good storming of the castle or attack by Indians any day.

  23. 23
    Melissandre says:

    The makeup might have worked if she’d always had her veil on over it.  But I feel like, in the 1800s,  stage makeup would have been a little too thick to be realistic.  Also, actors would be used to applying it for large theatres with dimmer lighting, so the makeup would look pretty obvious.  If the author doesn’t specify, I guess I can justify in my head that Sabrina is smart enough to tone down her makeup once she’s off the stage.  Still don’t think it would fool anyone without the veil blurring the details.

    From an official theatre major.

  24. 24
    Sofia Harper says:

    I either read this book or white man raised by savage was so popular I read something similar.

    And having read this review, which cracked me up, I’m wondering how in the hell my beloved romance genre survived. We are a dedicated brood to get through stories like this. And thrive as a community and genre.

    Lastly, and a bit of a sidenote, I really, really think we should call those 80s and 90s WTFery novels Pink Acid. We have to. “I read a pink acid the other day. OMFG! It was the epitome of crazysauce.”

  25. 25
    Tiona says:

    LOL! Loved the reiew! I will never read this book, but too funny! I agree with Jeannie S. The bad reviews are much funnier! Love the hot pink on the cover

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