Month: April 2021

Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

Heather, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1979, cover artist unknown

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Why, oh why did I not listen to the words of wisdom just DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper?

But no, like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur. First one thing happens, and then this happens, and then this other thing happens, but none of it has any zing or excitement about it. In Heather by Cordelia Byers, stuff occurs while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. Absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper, because these are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the senses, either by offending or delighting or titillating.

I was a little offended, I suppose; not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.

Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative, and even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either. Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David but knows that her love is hopeless.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers”

Category Romance Review: Jinxed by Day LeClaire

Jinxed, Day Leclaire, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist to be determined

Harlequin Romance #3028

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Day LeClaire’s Jinxed has the honor of being the third romance I read. I recall my first four romances so vividly, since they arrived free of charge in package on my doorstep when I was about 12. There were 4 Harlequin Romances: Game Plan, Arafura Pirate, Spell Of The Mountains and Jinxed. Jinxed was the best of the bunch.

The character of Stephen was the precursor of what would be my favorite type of hero: blond, blue eyed, with an icy demeanor and stuffed shirt attitude, who, because of the burdens put upon by his family, took life way too seriously, and just needed some wonderful, outrageous woman who would make him loosen up and have some excitement.

The heroine Kit was a total klutz. But she was also was intelligent, great at her job, lots of fun, and loved by her nieces and nephews. I so adored her character because I, too, was quite clumsy (who am I kidding, was??) and she was the most relatable heroine I’d come across so far.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Jinxed by Day LeClaire”

Category Romance: The Perfect Couple by Maura Seger

The Perfect Couple, Maura Seger, Silhouette, 1997, cover artist unknown
Silhouette Intimate Moments #775

From the back of the book:

Will they ever have a chance to say “I love you”?

THEIR FUTURE HANGS IN THE BALANCE….First the argument ripped Shane Dutton and Brenna O’Hare apart. Now a plane crash has stranded Shane in the Alaskan wilderness. Miles apart, all they can do is wait. And hope. And remember…

THEIR PAST IS ALL THEY HAVE…Shane wanted children—Brenna didn’t. Brenna wanted a man who never took risks—Shane did. But they also wanted each other—so badly that their differences hadn’t mattered. Not at first…Reflecting on what went wrong—and right—Shane and Brenna reach the same conclusion. But will they ever get the chance to say “I love you”?

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Perfect Couple by Maura Seger was perfectly…boring.

The set up was great: flipping back through different times in Shane and Brenna’s relationship, but the love story was treacly-sweet. If I liked that sort of white bread perfection, I’d read Nicholas Sparks, the gag-master extraordinaire.

Shane and Brenna have been a couple for some time, but their differences threaten their love-life. Brenna is a down-to-earth type who likes her life carefully planned out.... Read more “Category Romance: The Perfect Couple by Maura Seger”

Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright

Silver Storm, Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1979, cover artist unknown

It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…

SILVER STORM

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I started reading Cynthia Wright’s Silver Storm, then put it down; it was sweet, but sometimes too sweet and I have enough cavities. Then halfway through it changes in tone. Our previously gentleman hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great and I wanted more!

The Plot

The first half involves a sensuous French privateer Andre Raveneau escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia at the end of the American Revolution. The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man but devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment. All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice, and Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a gentleman; I wondered where this was going.

But oh, he has a plan–a cunning plan–to trap his strawberry-haired prey, and when he finally gets what he wants, he plans just as cruelly to be rid of her, eagerly awaiting his next new lay.... Read more “Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright”

A Closer Look At: Pocket Books

I hope that SweetSavageFlame.com is seen more than just a blog; it’s a site dedicated to the history of contemporary and historical romance in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Although we’re just a couple of weeks old, I’d like to be able to build a substantial catalogue of books sorted by my personal reviews, authors, publishers, imprints, and/or cover artists. In addition, I’d like to take look at the history behind the people–authors and readers–and the companies that helped form the romance novel industry.

By doing so, I also wanted to spend time taking a look at institutions or people I’ve archived. This week, we’ll talk about the ones who began the paperback movement (in America anyway), Pocket Books.

Started in 1939, Pocket Books was the first mass-market paperback distributor in the United States. Their initial run of books were reprints of classic works, but overtime they developed their own stable of writers.

Like almost all paperback publishers, they were quick to tap into the success of the revitalized romance genre that came about with Avon’s 1972’s The Flame and the Flower, and later their one-two punch of 1974’s The Wolf and the Dove and Sweet Savage Love.... Read more “A Closer Look At: Pocket Books”

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour

Purity’s Ecstasy, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1978, Harry Bennett cover art

Youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth.

PURITY’S ECSTASY

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Like many other late 1970’s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.

In the first book, Purity’s Passion, after beautiful Purity survived the French Revolution, she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she had numerous obstacles to overcome before getting her man (namely other men). The same is more or less the case with this sequel, as Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.

Alas, after being kicked out into the streets by cruel in-laws, Purity has to search for employment. In her own words her “youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth” so what’s a girl to do?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour”

Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

Tara’s Song, Avon 1978, cover artist unknown

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late ’70s at the height of the bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to rapacious and fun, but I found it rather ho-hum.

Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde, Irish beauty Tara enters into a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is actually not a novice, but a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows. Yet for some mysterious reason some of her fellow nuns ensure that Tara studies the pagan Nordic runes. Obviously, the elder sisters knew their convent would be overtaken by a horde of ravenous Vikings and runic readings would come in handy for protection later on.

Tara’s new life begins when she is captured by Rorik. He, of the long, curly reddish-blond hair and two long mustaches that reach past his chin, but no beard. I imagine him as a young metal god, like a cross between Dave Mustaine & James Hetfield, only with lots of muscles.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson”

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

These Golden Pleasures, Warner Books, 1977, Elaine Duillo cover art

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What can I say about Valerie Sherwood’s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512 page epic starts out wonderfully but then falters then lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.

Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.

The story goes back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds. As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. She has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.

Circumstances force her out of Kansas and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes who sails ships. This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot… And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood”

Category Romance Review: Elegant Barbarian by Catherine Spencer

Elegant Barbarian, Catherine Spencer, Harlequin, 1993, cover artist to be determined
Harlequin Presents #1682
5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I don’t know why I liked this nice, little Harlequin Presents so much. I guess it was just a case of reading the unexpected at the right time.

In the aptly titled Elegant Barbarian by Catherine Spencer our heroine, Laura, needs a break from it all and is vacationing at her grandmother’s beach house in Canada. Things there would be fine if it weren’t for her grumpy neighbor, a barbarian of a man who lives off the ocean shellfish, washes with pink soap, and smokes Cuban cigars.

The hero pretty much keeps to himself, but still, he and Laura clash several times. Then a cute baby seal washes ashore and the two have to care for the baby together and they bond because of it.

Despite his gruff outer shell, the hero, Jackson, seems much more of a cultured man than he initially appears.

This book would have been better suited for the Romance line rather than the Presents, as the drama is mostly based on internal hurts rather than from outside sources. Jackson spent several years in prison as he was falsely imprisoned for embezzlement and has a difficult time trusting people.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Elegant Barbarian by Catherine Spencer”

Updates #3

Hello, again! I hope all is well on your end. My family is going through a bit of a trying time right now, as one of our beloved cats has departed from us and it hurts terribly to think about her being gone. I’m trying to keep myself busy with writing, blogging, and fixing up this site, so I hope you don’t mind my updates flooding your inbox.

As you might see, I’ve added a bit more to the site: more book reviews, more cover artists, and more information regarding publishing houses, author biographies, and backlists. Plus I’ve expanded the scope of the site to include other genres of romance that were published in the post-Flame and the Flower era up until the turn of the millennium. I really want to this site to be a valuable source of historical information for romance bibliophiles.

So now when you go to the MENU bar you can access books and authors by historical romance or category romance (contemporary) genres.

If there are authors or books you’d like to see represented here, please drop a comment and let me know. For example, I’m currently working on Charlotte Lamb and Penny Jordan pages.

There are topics that can be easily accessed from the MENU bar include:

AUTHOR PAGES:

(New pages listed below:)

Teresa Denys

Fern Michaels

Kathleen E.... Read more “Updates #3”

Historical Romance Review: A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I hated A Pirate’s Love for many reasons, some based on logic, most others based on pettiness. If you’re looking for a great review that does a better job explaining why this book blows, search elsewhere. I’m just going to go on a diatribe based on my ever-waning recollections of this “romance”:

The multiple rapes that the hero commits upon the heroine didn’t really faze me, although they did get redundant. After all, it’s a bodice ripper, and that’s what comes with the territory. If a hero raping the heroine offends you, best not read this genre. It was everything else, in this, Johanna Lindsey’s second book, that I despised.

I hated Bettina and her knee-length hair that’s easily hidden under a hat! (Apologies to Johanna who actually had knee-length hair. She could easily pass for one of her heroines.)

I hated how she cried over her dresses and how ill-tempered she was and hearing about her flashing eyes that were blue one minute, then green another. Not blue-green eyes, mind you, that look different depending on the light or what colors they reflect. Her eyes just change color randomly with her emotions.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Mini-Review: This Triumphant Fire by Anne Carsley

This Triumphant Fire, Anne Carsley, Avon, 1982, cover artist unknown

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

(I have long ago put this book in storage, and it’s too much of a pain to dig out, but before I forget it all, here’s a review):

Anne Carsley’s This Triumphant Fire is an ok bodice ripper with a more interesting villain than hero. The heroine is a beautiful French girl living off the charity of her English guardians. If I recall correctly, the hero is a rakish fellow who is having a romance with one of the daughters in the family. He also has a secret life as a highwayman. After a brutal rape attempt by one of the sons, the heroine kills her attacker and flees into the night. The hero and heroine meet again, and he takes her to his cabin in the woods. They make passionate love and spend an idyllic time together before the hero abandons her. The heroine catches him cheating on her with another woman. She confronts him, and in the typical jerky-hero style he is unrepentant.

They are separated and she finds her the way on a ship to the American south, where she enters in a marriage of convenience with a suave, attractive, older man.... Read more “Historical Romance Mini-Review: This Triumphant Fire by Anne Carsley”