These 10 Retro Romance Authors Still Write Today
These “old-school” or retro romance authors have been successful in the genre for 25, 30, or even 40 years. Their contributions to the industry are numerous. These women have won many awards and sold tens of millions of books.
Lisa Kleypas burst onto the scene in September 1987 with her Onyx release, Where Passion Leads. She is a Wellesley College graduate and former beauty pageant queen (Miss Massachusetts). Kleypas was only 21 when she signed her first book deal. Thirty-five years later, she’s perhaps historical romance’s most famous author.
Kleypas has published 49 novels and short stories. She has dabbled in contemporary romance. But historicals are where she has her biggest fans. Her books have won various awards for distinction. Kleypas is both a USA Today and NY Times best-selling author. Her most recent outing, Devil in Disguise, came out in August 2021.
One of Harlequin’s most prominent authors is Lynne Graham, who hails from Northern Ireland. Mills & Boon published her first book, Bittersweet Passion, in 1987. It wasn’t until she began writing Harlequin Presents a couple of years later that Graham would gain huge acclaim. Her first HP was The Veranchetti Marriage. Her passionate romances about Greek, Italian, Hispanic, and Mediterranean heroes have captured millions of fans. She has written 120+ books, and 45 million have been sold worldwide. Promoted to the Greek’s Wife will be a February 2022 release.
Jodi Thomas, whose real name is Jodi Koumalats, is a Texas icon. Most of her books take place in the Lone Star State. Her first novel, Beneath the Texas Sky, published in 1988, won a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Western Romance. Thomas has received many awards for her books which resonate with authenticity.
She has written both historical and contemporary romances and has also branched into women’s fiction. Thomas has two of her books scheduled for release in 2022, including Sunday at Sunflower Inn.
La Nora, as the industry calls her, is a publishing phenom. She has written over 200 romances, including category romances, contemporaries, romantic suspense, and science fiction.
Born Eleanor Marie Robertson, Nora Roberts submitted her first manuscript to Harlequin, who rejected her as they didn’t need more American writers. Silhouette quickly swiped her talents. Their Romance line released Irish Thoroughbred in 1981. The rest is history.
Nora Roberts’ books have sold over 150 million copies. Roberts’ prodigious output sees her create two books a year. Nightwork will be coming out in May 2022.
Historical romance writer Lorraine Heath was born in England and raised in Texas, which gives her a unique perspective when writing. Although she is one of the “later” authors on this list, she has consistently produced romances for the past 28 years.
Her first book, Sweet Lullaby, was a big hit with readers in 1994. The Duchess Hunt is her most recent romance. It came out in October 2021. Heath has two more books lined up for 2022. Her novels have won numerous awards and garnered glowingly positive reviews from fans and critics alike.
Diana Palmer (aka Susan Kyle) has written contemporary romance since 1979. Her first book was a MacFadden Romance called Storm Over the Lake. She would later move to Silhouette, becoming one of their most successful authors. She has written over 160 titles, both full-length and category romances, as well as historicals.
With Diana Palmer, readers know exactly what they’re getting. The hero is a hard Alpha male and the innocent heroine is strangely drawn to him, despite his off-putting demeanor. Her books have sold tens of millions worldwide. Palmer’s latest, Wyoming True, was just published in November 2021.
Jude Deveraux is perhaps one of the last remaining authors from the original “bodice ripper” era, although her romances were hardly hardcore ‘rippers. In 1978, her first book, The Enchanted Land, was released by Avon, although she would move to Pocket Books after her second release. Her novels would be set in almost every era, including historicals, contemporaries, and time travel.
She has written women’s fiction as well, but she still writes romances to this day. Her most recent is Chance of a Lifetime in 2020. Another romance will follow in 2022. With over 50 million copies of her books sold, Deveraux remains one of romance’s leading ladies.
Debbie Macomber is a slice of Americana pie. She began her career writing category romances for Silhouette and then Harlequin. Her first book was 1983’s Starlight.
Like many authors on this list, she has also written women’s fiction. Macomber’s Christmas romances are an annual event, and she had had movies and series produced for the Hallmark Channel. She has sold about 200 million books. Macomber’s most recent book was It’s Better This Way in late 2021.
Oregon-born Catherine Anderson has penned some super-emotional romances. She has written categories, historicals, and contemporaries. Her first book was a romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, Reasonable Doubt, published in June 1988.
Perhaps her most popular book is Annie’s Song, about a deaf woman who is mistakenly thought of as an “imbecile.” Anderson has written 40+ more books. The latest was Maple Leaf Harvest in August 2021.
Born in Wales, Mary Balogh began writing traditional regencies for Signet in 1985. Her first book, A Masked Deception, would be one of the many regencies she would publish. She began to write full-length historicals in 1992 with Beyond the Sunrise.
Balogh is a widely popular author with over 120 titles to her credit (short-length, novels, and full-length). Her Slightly series was very successful, hitting the NY Times bestseller lists. Balogh’s most recent romance was Someone Perfect in 2021.
Who Did We Miss?
Although it seems every week a beloved writer is retiring or passing away, there are still many authors who got their start in the 20th century creating output today.
Who did we miss? What other “old-school” authors are producing work in the 2020s? Are there authors you wish were still writing? Please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance.
Subscribe via e-mail to receive notifications from Sweet Savage Flame and be eligible to win 3 Harlequin Temptation category romances from the '90s.
9 thoughts on “10 Retro Romance Authors Relevant Today”
While they aren’t quite as high profile as the ones you mention, Rosanne Bittner and Marsha Canham are still writing new western and swashbuckling romances respectively.
Hello, Miss M,
That’s right, they are. Although I haven’t read Bittner yet, I have some of her recent books (2010s) and she published her last book in 2019. Canham has been rereleasing her works, too. I read Bound By the Heart a while back and it had a lot of great action and romance. Have to do a review for it before I forget what it was all about!
I would also add one of my favorite authors-then and now, Vicki Lewis Thompson. She published her first book for Harlequin Temptation in May of 1984 and her most recent works in November 2021.
Hello, Blue Falcon.
Vicki Lewis Thompson is a great pick. For some reason I didn’t even consider her, even though I picked up her books over 30 years ago and knew she was still writing. She was a bestseller for The Temptation and Blaze lines, of which I’ve read a few. Her books were marked with a great sense of humor, erotic sensuality, and down-to-earth protagonists. Good stuff.
Okay I’m cranky today so I’m going with the contrary and probably super minority opinion. I won’t read either Lynne Graham or Diana Palmer because AFAIK, they’ve only ever written virginal heroines which seems to my mind…not so relevant.
I wish Judy Cuevas/Judith Ivory was still writing.
I have to admit although I’ve enjoyed most Lynne Graham books I’ve come upon (30 or so) I had to stop reading her because every book was just like the one before. The hero was the same 6’2″ Italian/Greek/maybe Spanish or Arab and the heroine the same quirky, voluptuous yet virginal,orphan type. Only one book had a heroine that wasn’t a virgin, and she only had sex once, didn’t like it, and a baby resulted from the experience. Guess who comes to the rescue?
As for Dian Plamer, I just reviewed a Palmer book. I had low expectations, and she lived up to them, LOL. I got a kick out of her hero: furry chested, smoker, wears a huge cowboy hat and an unapologetic “Woman Hater.” That was the even name of the book! 😂
Some category romances can pull off the sheltered virgin trope, but they’re mostly older books. Historicals can pull it off believably, but it gets less and less believable for contemporaries.
Another popular major name is the multi-genre romance writer Jayne Anne Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick. Her first work was in ‘79 and she’s written over 100 since then.
That’s another one who slipped my mind, and I have Sweet Starfire on my TBR list for this year. She’s written just about every kind of romance, hasn’t she?
I remember her books from my Harlequin Tempatation Days, she was very prolific. For the longest time, I used to confuse her with Barbara Delinsky, who also still writes, as of 2020.
Great article, makes me want to read Where Passion Leads by Lisa Kleypas, sadly, this book is so expensive it’s unreal.
Candace Camp still writes but I much prefer her earlier books when she was writing historicals/bodice rippers under Lisa Gregory pseudonym. She also wrote a few books for Silhouette Sensation/Harlequin as Kristin James.
There is also Sandra Brown (Sunset Embrace), Linda Howard (Western Ladies trilogy) and Heather Graham/Shannon Drake; these ladies created some great Alfa Heroes.