I just can't see the appeal.
I'm reading one right now. Into the Wilderness was recommended to me as an excellent historical novel. "A powerful adventure story," as People apparently phrased it. The sender warned me that it was also a romance novel, but a very good, extremely well-written one.
Well. I have to say that the 'adventure story' parts of the book are excellent. Donati vividly captures the world of a very young America, only a few year after the Revolutionary War. The untamed forests and mountains that covered the nation, the smoky interior of Indian longhouses, and the English and Dutch settlements get equal face time in the novel. Everything is described so thoroughly that it is easy to imagine the exact picture of life that Donati is trying to paint.
The characters are weak. The Indians are all good, and the majority of the white men are flawed and/or evil. Black people, whether slaves or freed, are the intelligent who observe everything and manipulate the white people they serve to fulfill their own needs. Crafty, that's the word for them. Elizabeth, the plucky spinster from England and main character, is thoroughly modern in her sensibilities. Plucky and stubborn, she is the sort of pre-feminist that seems to dominate the historical fiction I've read lately. (See Stand We At Last.)
Then there's the whole bodice-ripper, heat-of-the-moment-heartbeat-passion, sex on a sexy sex stick. Gah. It's just so boring to read about how the heat of Nathaniel's body overwhelmed Elizabeth's delicate English sensibilities, and her mouth is soft but his manhood is hard and wham! bam! thank you ma'am! etc. Sorry. Don't get the appeal, man. It's so cheesy and cliche - the dialogue isn't the book's strongest point, but it gets really, really bad when shirts come off. If the book wasn't so long (I'm at page 579, out of 876) I'd dig up a gem of a quote to share with you.
I still might, it's pretty ridiculous at times.
Oh well, I've gotten this far into the book. I suppose I'll stagger through 'til the end.