Samuel, Barbara 1959–
Samuel, Barbara 1959–
Born 1959, in CO; married; children: Ian and Miles. Education: University of Southern Colorado, graduated 1985. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.
Author. Also teacher of online writing classes.
Named Romance Writer of the Year by Romantic Times, 1990; Janet Dailey Award, 1996, for The Last Chance Ranch; winner of four RITA awards.
A Bed of Spices, Harper (New York, NY), 1993.
A Winter's Ballad, Harper (New York, NY), 1994.
The Love Talker, Harper (New York, NY), 1994.
Lucien's Fall, Harper (New York, NY), 1995.
Dancing Moon, Harper (New York, NY), 1996.
Heart of a Knight, Harper (New York, NY), 1997.
The Black Angel, Harper (New York, NY), 1999.
Night of Fire, Avon (New York, NY), 2000.
No Place like Home, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.
A Piece of Heaven, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2003.
The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2004.
Lady Luck's Map of Vegas, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.
Madame Mirabou's School of Love, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2006.
(With Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, and Karen Harbaugh) Dragon Lovers, Signet (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of column for Novelist's Ink. Contributor to anthologies, including Irish Magic, 1995, and Irish Magic II, 1997, both Kensington Books (New York, NY), and Faery Weddings, 1998. Contributor to periodicals, including Paradoxa.
UNDER PSEUDONYM RUTH WIND
Strangers on a Train, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1989.
Summer's Freedom, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1990.
Light of Day, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1990.
A Minute to Smile, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1992.
Jezebel's Blues, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1992.
Walk in Beauty, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1994.
Breaking the Rules, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1994.
The Last Chance Ranch, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1995.
Rainsinger, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1996.
The Last Round Up (trilogy), Silhouette (New York, NY), 1997.
Marriage Material, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1997.
Reckless, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1997.
Her Ideal Man, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1997.
Meant to Be Married, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1998.
For Christmas Forever, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1998.
Rio Grande Wedding, Silhouette (New York, NY), 1999.
In the Midnight Rain, Harper (New York, NY), 2000.
Beautiful Stranger, Silhouette (New York, NY), 2000.
Born Brave, Silhouette (New York, NY), 2001.
Barbara Samuel began writing romance novels as Ruth Wind right out of college, publishing her first work, Strangers on a Train, in 1989. Just four years later she released A Bed of Spices, her first novel published under her real name. Since that time, Samuel has produced a long list of novels as Wind, as well as historical romances and novellas under her own name. She has also published a number of mainstream romantic novels.
Samuel's novel Dancing Moon is set in the American West in the 1840s. Tess Fallon left Ireland for America during the famine and escapes her marriage to a violent slaveowner husband before moving west with a pregnant slave. When they are attacked by an Arapaho war party, comanchero Joaquin Morales appears and rescues them. Lee Gilmore, who reviewed the novel for the Romance Reader Web site, noted that "there is a lot of sex in this book…. The secondary characters … are well drawn. The friendship between Tess and the runaway slave who accompanies her on her trek west is touching and real. Morales' compadres are likewise fascinating." Gilmore concluded by calling the novel a "good book, good writing, good read."
Heart of a Knight is set in the fourteenth century in the village of Woodell. Thomas of Roxburgh appears at the church during a blizzard, explaining that he is fleeing from the bubonic plague. The villagers agree to provide him with a place to stay if he will help defend them from the bandits who live in the nearby forest. Thomas agrees to do so, and when Lyssa, the mistress of Woodell, returns home, expecting to find the same devastation she has witnessed in most of England, she finds instead that the village is prospering, all because of Thomas. At first resentful that he has presumed too much and fearful that he will try to take over her lands, Lyssa soon realizes that she owes Thomas a great debt and asks him to stay. Romance Reader contributor Katy Cooper stated that Heart of a Knight contains "many fine characters, but the hero and heroine are especially appealing. Thomas is a wonderful character: gentle and strong, honorable and pragmatic. He tries his best to do right, but events have a way of entangling him in situations beyond his control. Lyssa is more than his match. While she is a proud woman, she is also kind, thoughtful, and has a bracing self-honesty."
The Black Angel is set in the late eighteenth century and opens with Lady Adriana St. Ives witnessing a duel in which a man is killed by her brother Julian, seconded by her half-brother Gabriel, after which the pair flee England. Five years later, Adriana is about to marry Tynan Spenser of Ireland, the spouse chosen for her by her father. Tynan is a man with political ambitions in England, who also has a reputation as a lover. With her family's finances in ruin following her brothers' departure and her father's death, Adriana decides to go ahead with the marriage, even though she has never met the man. When she does, she deliberately dresses to make herself less attractive, hoping that her brothers will return to save her before the wedding takes place. Tynan is angered by her behavior and swears that he will have nothing more to do with her once she conceives an heir.
In a Romance Reader review, Bev Hill noted that "these central conflicts are embellished by a truly extraordinary number of additional significant characters and issues … All of these characters are presented in such a way as to make them seem more like main characters who have strayed from their own books. Information about them is provocative, never quite complete, always hinting at more of a story to be known." Hill acknowledged that the book "raises serious issues: Adriana's struggle with debilitating shame and a double standard for sexual behavior, slavery, and the oppression of Ireland by the British."
Adrianna's sister, Lady Cassandra St. Ives, is the central character of Samuel's next novel, Night of Fire. Romance Reader critic Lesley Dunlap noted that no reason is given why she is known by her unmarried name rather than her husband's surname. Cassandra is a widow who does translations and publishes scholarly essays on Italian Renaissance poet Boccaccio. She is a leader in London society, and her salons attract its educated members. One of her essays is praised by Basilio, Count Montevarchi of Tuscany, and a correspondence develops between the two, with each picturing the other as middle-aged and plain. The count invites Cassandra to Tuscany where they both are amazed to discover the beauty and appeal of the other, and they immediately fall in love. Cassandra is free to pursue carnal pleasure, but the count is not, having been betrothed by his father to a young girl who was his mother's favorite. Dunlap wrote that "Cassandra and Basilio are both strong, likable characters…. Both have been constrained by family or society to conform to an uncomfortable mold. Because they are so perfectly matched, for the first time they feel free to indulge themselves in expanding their experiences, and once they are forced apart, their unrequited love remains believably strong and vital." Dunlap noted that, in writing about Cassandra's sexual awakening, Samuel uses the senses, including smell and taste, and described her language as "lush."
The same year Night of Fire was released, Samuel also published In the Midnight Rain under her pseudonym Ruth Wind. In this novel, biographer Ellie Cannon accepts the invitation of botanist Laurence "Blue" Reynard to spend time in Pine Bend, Texas, to research the career of a little-known 1930s blues singer and her own family history. She discovers everything she hoped to find and more in what Library Journal reviewer Kristin Ramsdell called a "beautifully rendered romance."
Romance Reader critic Susan Scribner called Samuel's first hardcover, No Place like Home, "another phase in her evolution towards mainstream women's fiction." In this contemporary novel, Jewel Sabatino has lived in New York City for twenty years, but now her apartment is going condo, and she has to make some choices. She returns to Pueblo, Colorado, to move into the farmhouse left to her by her late Aunt Sylvia with her seventeen-year-old musician son Shane and Michael, a friend who is dying of AIDS. Jewel's mother and sisters are thrilled to have her back, but her Italian father has not forgiven her for running off with a musician two decades before. Jewel has her hands full reestablishing old ties, watching out for Shane, and caring for Michael, and she contacts Michael's brother Malachi, asking him to come before Michael reaches the end.
Malachi is a darkly handsome wilderness guide who makes it clear to Jewel, after they become attracted to each other, that he has vowed to avoid a permanent relationship, in part because of his parents' stormy marriage. Jewel has to decide whether she can, or even wants to, change his mind. Scribner noted that Samuel "is a native of Pueblo, and she demonstrates a sharp sense of place that truly makes the setting come alive. Her delicately descriptive prose is a joy to read…. Samuel has a gift for mining hidden meaning from seemingly ordinary moments of time. Give her something special, like a kiss, and she'll take you even further."
Scribner described the character of Malachi as "a little too clichéed" and said she would have liked to read more about Shane and Jewel's sister Jordan, an artist, nurse, and herbalist. "At times," wrote Scribner, "it felt as if Samuel had planned to write a traditional women's fiction novel that dealt exclusively with family relationships, but was persuaded to add the love story to maintain her romance reader base." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called No Place like Home a "scrappy hardcover debut." Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann found that Samuel "tells a truly heartwarming story that proves that sometimes you can go home again."
Set in Taos, New Mexico, A Piece of Heaven focuses on Luna McGraw, a recovering alcoholic whose teenage daughter, Joy, is moving back in with her after an eight-year separation. Though Joy adjusts to her new surroundings, it becomes clear that she harbors a great deal of anger toward her father, a notorious womanizer, and greatly misses her stepmother. At the same time, Luna enters a relationship with Thomas Coyote, a local artist who struggles with personal issues of his own. In A Piece of Heaven, noted Library Journal contributor Shelley Mosley, the author "has created truly three-dimensional characters, filled with flaws, strengths, and idiosyncrasies." Patty Engelmann, reviewing the work in Booklist, noted that Samuel offers "an in-depth view of what truly matters in life-lasting relationships, especially the solidarity between generations of women."
In The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, four women help each other through a series of emotional crises. After her husband leaves her, forty-six-year-old Trudy Marino turns to her eclectic group of friends for support, including Jade, an African American social worker; Roberta, Jade's grandmother, whose husband of sixty-two years has just died; and Shannelle, a blue-collar mom with visions of becoming a writer. Samuel "confronts the dynamic of what it means to be a woman in and out of love," noted Booklist reviewer Carol Haggas. A Publishers Weekly contributor stated that the author's "characters are warmly drawn and sympathetic, their problems real and believable."
Two women harboring dark secrets embark on a road trip to Las Vegas in Lady Luck's Map of Vegas, an "affectionate but bumpy novel," noted a reviewer in Pub-lishers Weekly. After Eldora Redding convinces her daughter, India, a successful web designer, to accompany her to Las Vegas, the pair hop into Eldora's vintage Thunderbird and head off down Route 66. Along the way, they search for India's schizophrenic twin sister, Gypsy, a nomadic artist, and reveal some hidden truths. "An engaging storyteller, Samuel excels at creating memorable characters through crisp dialogue," Haggas wrote, and Library Journal contributor Gloria Maxwell stated, "Readers will alternately laugh out loud and roll their eyes at the universal nature of family dynamics."
Madame Mirabou's School of Love concerns Nikki Carrington, a distressed, jobless woman who must rebuild her life after her ex-husband takes custody of their teenage daughter and a furnace explosion destroys her house. Leaving her old friends behind, Nikki rents an apartment, takes a job as a waitress, and befriends her eccentric neighbor, tarot card reader Madame Mimbou. "With great insight Samuel explores the many problems facing newly divorced women," commented Engelmann.
On her Web site, Samuel remarked that she feels "very lucky" to have found success as a novelist. "Getting the vision, catching that excitement, then working through the stages to completion, falling in love, over and over and over, with a character who has a story to tell—that's the great part of writing," the author commented. "It's endlessly challenging, and no matter how hard a writer works, she'll never learn everything, so it's always exciting and fresh. The books. I love the books."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2000, Nina Davis, review of Dancing Moon, p. 225; December 1, 2001, Patty Engelmann, review of No Place like Home, p. 635; November 15, 2002, Patty Engelmann, review of A Piece of Heaven, p. 570; December 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, p. 647; January 1, 2005, Carol Haggas, review of Lady Luck's Map of Vegas, p. 823; May 15, 2005, Joyce Saricks, review of A Piece of Heaven (audiobook review), p. 1680; March 15, 2006, Patty Engelmann, review of Madame Mirabou's School of Love, p. 29.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of A Piece of Heaven, p. 1564; November 15, 2003, review of The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, p. 1336; February 15, 2006, review of Madame Mirabou's School of Love, p. 156.
Library Journal, May 15, 2000, Kristin Ramsdell, review of In the Midnight Rain, p. 77; December 1, 2002, Shelley Mosley, review of A Piece of Heaven, p. 181; February 15, 2003, Kristin Ramsdell, review of A Piece of Heaven, p. 123; September 15, 2005, Gloria Maxwell, review of Lady Luck's Map of Vegas (audiobook review), p. 100.
Publishers Weekly, February 10, 1997, review of Irish Magic II, p. 69; November 12, 2001, review of No Place like Home, p. 33; February 10, 2003, review of A Piece of Heaven, p. 163; November 24, 2003, review of The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, p. 40; December 6, 2004, review of Lady Luck's Map of Vegas, p. 43; January 22, 2007, review of Dragon Lovers, p. 168.
Armchair Interviews,http://www.armchairinterviews.com/ (April 15, 2007), Andrea Sisco, review of Madame Mirabou's School of Love.
Barbara Samuel Home Page,http://www.barbarasamuel.com (April 15, 2007).
Romance Reader,http://www.romancereader.com/ (July 3, 2002), Lee Gilmore, review of Dancing Moon, Katy Cooper, review of Heart of a Knight, Bev Hill, review of The Black Angel, Lesley Dunlap, review of Night of Fire, and Susan Scribner, review of No Place like Home.
Scribblers,http://www.ibooktime.com/ (June 5, 2002), interview with Barbara Samuel.
Word Wenches Blog,http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/ (March 8, 2007), Mary Jo Putney, "An Interview with Barbara Samuel."