Month: August 2021

Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #1

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE

Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books for free at a time. The lending library is limited to just 1,000 books, so check often to see what is available as the status of e-books changes. Currently, these romance novels published from the 1970s to 2000 are free to borrow (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE by FERN MICHAELS

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE

HEART OF STONE by DIANA PALMER (retitled LONG, TALL TEXANS: BOONE)

THE MACKINNON’S BRIDE by TANYA ANNE CROSBY

THE PRIDE OF LIONS by MARSHA CANHAM

Kindle Unlimited

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, no doubt you already take advantage of the many books you can read for a fixed monthly fee. These old school romances are available to read on KU (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

EMBRACE AND CONQUER by JENNIFER BLAKE

FIERCE EDEN by JENNIFER BLAKE

MIDNIGHT WALTZ by JENNIFER BLAKE

ROYAL PASSION by JENNIFER BLAKE

ROYAL SEDUCTION by JENNIFER BLAKE

SPANISH SERENADE by JENNIFER BLAKE

THE STORM AND THE SPLENDOR by JENNIFER BLAKE

SWEET PIRACY by JENNIFER BLAKE (aka PATRICIA MAXWELL)

LAVENDER LIES by CONSTANCE O’BANYON

PASSION’S WICKED TORMENT by MELISSA HEPBURNE

passion's wicked torment
... Read more “Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #1”

Covers of the Week #21

sheik 1

This week Sweet Savage Flame is highlighting male cover models! We all know Fabio, John DeSalvo, and Steve Sandalis. But what about other men who modeled during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s? Looking at these attractive men, we can see how the image of the romance cover hero has evolved throughout the years.

The four men whose artful forms we’re appreciating are pictured on the covers below, left to right:

  • Chad Deal – Deal posed for hundreds of romance covers in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Perhaps one of the first cover model icons, Deal had a long and successful career. He posed for twice as many covers with Elaine Duillo as Fabio did ( 40+ vs. 19).
  • Guy Bishop – This internationally famous model lent his face to countless magazines and book covers. Bishop appeared in glitzy advertisements and walked the runways of Paris and New York, showing off designer clothes.
  • Mike Dale – Dale has worked for Bantam Loveswept, Silhouette/ Harlequin, Zebra, and many other publishers. His face was ubiquitous in 1990s romance covers, his down-to-earth appeal making him a natural for category romance. A true example of a silver fox, Dale now runs a life management business, teaches yoga, and models for catalogs and fashion magazines.
... Read more “Covers of the Week #21”

Category Romance Review: Duncan’s Bride by Linda Howard

duncans bride
Duncan’s Bride, Linda Howard, Silhouette Intimate Moment, 1990, Cover Artist TBD

#349 Silhouette Intimate Moments

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Duncan’s Bride has an old-school plot, even by the standards of romances written in…1990. (That wasn’t a long time ago!) In Silhouette Intimate Moments #349 by Linda Howard, a 28-year-old beauty from New York City travels across the country to become the mail-order bride of a hero who’s damn lucky to get her.

Character & Plot

Madelyn, the shining star of this romance, is 28-years-old and has been working for her step-brother’s company for a couple of years. Although she’s hit a wall in her career, she’s secure in her identity. Madelyn is funny, outspoken, and friendly. She’s a lovely woman with no baggage.

On the other hand, Gideon “Reese” Duncan carries a 5-piece set of Samsonite luggage packed full of bricks. He’s a divorced rancher in Montana who decides it’s time to settle down with a new wife. Years ago, his first marriage ended in disaster when his gorgeous ex left him, bored of life in the country. Reese was forced to sell his family lands and lay off the workers to liquidate his assets which were split 50-50.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Duncan’s Bride by Linda Howard”

Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan

highland fire
Highland Fire, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Historical #91

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Highland Sisters

Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals. The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.

Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.

Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan”

Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon

Virginia Vixen
Virginia Vixen, Kay McMahon, Zebra, 1986, John Ennis cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Virgina Vixen by Kay McMahon

This review is of Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon. Published in May 1989, this book is part of a series connected to four other books by Ms. McMahon.

The Plot

The book begins in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1774. Rebecca Wilde, a reporter for the Virginia Gazette and the heroine of the book, is investigating the murder of a slave who was a childhood friend of hers. Arriving at the same time is Alec Stone, the hero of the book, who has come to Virginia from England for two purposes; to find his father’s identity and to investigate the disappearance of one of his employees.

Rebecca and Alec meet for the first time when they end up in the same bed together and they have sex. Soon after this encounter, Rebecca writes an article all but calling Alec a murderer (based on flimsy, circumstantial evidence). This leads to several angry interactions between her and others, and other forms of trouble.

Despite their tempestuous relationship, Rebecca and Alec call a truce and decide to work together.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon”

Romance Authors With Pseudonyms

yellow flower
yellow flower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…

ROMEO AND JULIET, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Pen Name, Nom de Plume, Alias, and Author Pseudonyms

Author and raconteur Mark Twain was born Samuel “Longhorn” Clemens. The legendary George Eliot was not a man but a woman named Mary Ann Evans. Even the famous J.K. Rowling shortened her given name of Joanne Kathleen to publish. The use of pen names is an aspect that exists in all fields of writing.

In the romance genre, an author might use an alias for various reasons. Perhaps their real name lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Because some romance writers produce fiction in multiple genres, different names are used. There are male novelists who want to appeal to the majority female audience. Or the authors could be married couples or duos who need catchy noms-de-plume.

Below is a brief list of writers and their pen names. Since hundreds of authors use aliases, this is a short compilation. Therefore we included only those we have reviewed, highlighted, or soon will review and/or explore in-depth. With each romance author pseudonym, we provide an example book title or link to a book review.... Read more “Romance Authors With Pseudonyms”

Covers of the Week #20

springs fury

In 1971 singer/songwriter Carole King wrote the lovely song: “You’ve Got a Friend,” which detailed the lasting strength of love. James Taylor recorded it to great acclaim. Other artists like Dusty Springfield and Michael Jackson would put their own twists on the tune. These simple lyrics always stick with me:

Winter, spring, summer, fall
All you have to do is call…

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND

The power of love is as old as the Earth and as constant as the four seasons. To live is to love! At Sweet Savage Flame, romance is in the air all year long. So to celebrate, from Monday, August 23, 2021, to Sunday, August 29, our 20th edition of Covers of the Week highlights four beautiful romance covers set during Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Do you have a favorite season for romance?

Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

Rangoon
Rangoon
Rangoon, Christine Monson, Avon, 1985, Pino cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Christine Monson was best known for her infamous, shocking bodice-ripper Stormfire, which is legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance. Her second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor, but still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.

West Meets East

It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life. Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system. She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.

With a name like Lysistrata that should give a hint about her independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience, however I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson”

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

Tangled Tapestry, Anne Mather, Mills & Boon, 1969, cover artist unknown

Mills & Boon Modern

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

(Admission: I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and never was reprinted in English. It was only released on e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.)

Thanks to Anne Mather’s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put the correct copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but you only get to know that it was published in 1969 after you finish the book. I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid 20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! This book may offend some readers’ sensibilities, or, if you’re twisted like me, make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:

It’s funny because he keeps talking about his boner.

The Plot

British school teacher, Debra Warren, is on a work-exchange program in San Francisco educating underprivileged children.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather”

Covers of the Week #19

Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Historical Romance” covers. She was a giant in the competitive field of pulp fiction artwork, where women were few and far between. Duillo painted hundreds of book covers, was an inductee of the Illustrators Hall of fame, and was the matriarch of a talented artistic family. She passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.

This amazing cover artist influenced generations of illustrators, revolutionized romance cover art, and helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio. Pictured is one of Elaine’s most-loved covers, Defy Not the Heart, and it is also my all-time favorite cover. Although she created many gorgeous stepbacks, or “tip-ins,” as those in the industry called them, Duillo was not a fan. She believed the eye-catching covers she designed for romance novels were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that! I say. Those gorgeous jackets should be displayed proudly, not covered like some dirty secret!

We at Sweet Savage Flame lament her passing. Our thoughts and sympathy are with her family. We celebrate Elaine Duillo’s life as she brought much joy and beauty to countless tens of millions of readers worldwide.... Read more “Covers of the Week #19”

Why Do I Read Romance?

black framed eyeglasses on book
black framed eyeglasses on book
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Blue Falcon’s Romance Journey

In a recent post, Jacqueline asked, “The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?” querying about what people read romance novels for. I answered in the comments section, but I also felt like I wanted to elaborate a bit more. Hence, this post. 

I read romance novels for all the reasons Jacqueline stated, plus these other reasons:

I Read to Escape the World

I work in human services, working with people with extensive trauma histories and helping them find their way back to more solid ground. It’s a very emotional job and I need to find a counterbalance to that. Reading is that counterbalance.

I Read for Entertainment

Reading, for me, has always been an enjoyable pastime, and it remains one to this day. 

I Read to Learn

People who scoff at romance novels say you can’t learn anything from them. I strongly disagree. I have learned many things from romance novels; I have learned how to be a better, kinder, smarter person from reading these books. I’ve also learned what NOT to do, thanks to the many crappy heroes in the books I’ve read. Thanks, guys. 

I Read to Experience New Things

I’ve not traveled much in my life, due in part to many things, one of which is a fear of heights.... Read more “Why Do I Read Romance?”

Category Romance Review: Shadows on the Moon by Peggy Gaddis

Shadows on the Moon
Shadows on the Moon, Peggy Gaddis, Magnum, 1960, cover artist TBD

Magnum Books #4200-14

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Prolific Peggy Gaddis

Peggy Gaddis (1895 to 1966) was a big name in mid-century genre fiction. Born in the state of Georgia, she worked as a pulp magazine editor in New York in the 1920s. She must have learned what the readers wanted because she later became a popular fiction writer in various genres. Gaddis is credited with almost 300 works under a dozen names (that I know of). 

Her fortes include contemporary category romance novels; Shadows on the Moon is one example. First published as a hardcover by Arcadia House in 1960, it has been reprinted several times and on both sides of the pond. The version I read is a Magnum paperback published by Prestige Books in the mid-to-late 1970s. Like all books in the series, the copyright page doesn’t bear the date of this edition.

The title sounds gothic-like, but the novel is actually a brisk, dynamic tale of a young businesswoman (circa 1960) facing problems in her work, her family, and her love life. If you go for zesty, realistic plots full of true-to-life characters, with snappy dialog and a pace that never lags, this book might well be your cup of tea.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Shadows on the Moon by Peggy Gaddis”

Covers of the Week #18

twilight temptress

One of my favorite romance cover artists from the 1980s, 1990s, and well into the 2000s is Gregg Gulbronson. For the week of Monday, August 9 to Sunday, August 15, 2021, we highlight his gorgeous covers.

While Gulbronson remains a mysterious figure (as far as I’ve researched, there is little to no information available about him on the internet), his artwork merits attention and awe. I adore his style, especially his older covers, for which he used an airbrushing technique to add a dreamy effect to the clinches. By the turn of the millennium, he had progressed to digital imaging, like almost all other book cover illustrators. You can find more artwork and information about this talented artist on our Gregg Gulbronson page.

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne

passion's wicked torment
Passion’s Wicked Torment, Melissa Hepburne, Pinnacle Books, 1980, cover art Bill Maugham

Spoiler Alert & Warning: This Review and/or This Book May Offend You (Maybe) ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pinnacle BooksPassion’s Wicked Torment is a balls-to-wall 20th-century bodice ripper set in the gangster era during American Prohibition. From New York to Chicago, from Alaska to Europe, this book hops around the globe and features lots of mutually lusty sex scenes, rapes, and gangbangs. It stars a heroine so stupid and dumb, she could only have been written by Mr. Melissa Hepburne himself, the author of the blockbuster bestseller (I’m not kidding, it sold over a million copies!) Passion’s Proud Captive.

Aren’t Do-Do Birds Extinct?

Our heroine, Kristin Fleming, is perhaps an IQ point or two higher than Passion’s Proud Captive’s brainless Jenny-fair, whose stupidity made that book a hilarious blast. Now, I am not insulting our resilient sisters and aunts and mothers and grandmothers of the past when I refer to Hepburne’s heroines as too-stupid-to-live. This so-called historical fictional romance plays fast and loose with history, waffles around on the romance, and is HEAVY on the fiction. I doubt many women in reality who were capable of dressing themselves or had the mental know-how to expel their body wastes in a bowl of some sort ever inserted themselves into the moronic situations these caricatures of female protagonists did.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne”

Category Romance Review: Uninvited Wedding Guest by Marsha Manning (aka Hettie Grimstead)

univited wedding guest edited
Uninvited Wedding Guest, Marsha Manning, Prestige Books, 1979 (1968 original pub date), cover artist TBD

#4287 Magnum Books

(#108 Treasures of Love & #1106 Women’s Weekly Library)

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s not exactly the easiest vintage romance to find, but it’s a memorable one. Uninvited Wedding Guest began as a hardcover titled Friend of the Bride, published in 1968 by Ward, Lock, & Company, Ltd. in the UK and by Lenox Hill Press in the US. My guess is these companies aimed their products at public libraries, in the manner of Avalon Romances. This novel was reprinted as a booklet-style paperback by the British publisher IPC Magazines in its “Women’s Weekly Library” series, as number #1106, in 1974.

Friend of the Bride, Marsha Manning, Women’s Weekly Library, 1974, cover artist TBD

It next appeared in June 1979 as a mass-market paperback, Magnum Romances #4287, published by the New York company Prestige Books. It was released with a new title, the (fittingly) more dramatic one under which I’m reviewing the novel. 

In December of that year it turned up in another series, the three-books-in-one “Treasures of Love” #108, also published by Prestige Books.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Uninvited Wedding Guest by Marsha Manning (aka Hettie Grimstead)”

Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles

Viking Magic, Angela Welles, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1681

Spoiler Alert ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Postcards from Denmark

Viking Magic by Angela Welles was the entry for the nation of Denmark in Harlequin Presents’ line 1990s Postcards from Europe mini-series. I don’t know why the Nordic nations of Europe don’t feature more prominently in HPlandia. I find those heroes just as exciting as the Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Arab ones. Plus, I adore blonds! Viking Magic features a nice guy hero and a neurotically insecure heroine (aren’t they all?) united on a quest of sorts.

Gina Price is in Copenhagen to find her wayward teenage sister, who’s run off with a young Danish student. She’s given an address that might be a clue as to her sister’s whereabouts and knocks on the door of an apartment. Who should open the door but a Viking god of a man dressed in nothing but boxers! The man’s not too keen on seeing Gina, as: #1 she’s interrupted his sleep, and #2 he thinks she’s one of his conniving ex’s friends trying to steal a valuable painting from him. Things are clarified in short order, and the man, Rune Christenson, has nothing to do with Gina’s sister.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles”

How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title

question mark illustration
question mark illustration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Just like with a song you can hum, although the words elude you, it’s frustrating when you can’t remember the name of a book. Perhaps it’s a romance novel you read many years ago, and the details remain clear and crisp in your mind. Or it could be a striking cover that caught your eye or a blurb you saw that seemed enticing, and have nothing else to go by. Either way, you’re stuck and don’t know where to start. We have several ways to help you find the name of that book you can’t recall.

The human memory can be a tricky thing. If a person doesn’t eat right, get enough sleep, or stay physically active, days can blur together, and events seem the same. Alternatively, things like smells, music, and emotions can enhance memory. This is called associative memory, and it has helped me in recalling books. For me, Edith Wharton’s tragic tale of Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, stays in my mind as the book that kept me company in a lonely hospital room while my premature daughter fitfully slept in an isolette in the NICU.... Read more “How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title”

Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James (aka Mona D. Sizer)

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another Great Romance

Speak Only Love is yet another Deana James treat. This Zebra romance takes us to Regency Era England and the story of tumultuous love between two uniquely original characters.

Vivian Marleigh is a mute heiress who cannot speak ever since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. She is forced into marriage with a young, hard-drinking viscount, Piers Larne. The marriage was arranged by the viscounts’ wicked father, the Earl.

Piers is not happy about this union, but what can he do? He feels powerless in his life, with no agency. His daddy pulls the strings, and like a puppet, Piers must dance to his control. Piers is a dissolute mess, spending most of his time drinking and recovering from gunshot wounds or the many injuries he receives. For besides being the wastrel son of a nobleman, our hero is also a smuggler.

Vivian doesn’t speak a word in the book, yet the love story unfolds and the two pawns in an evil man’s game soon form an intense bond that goes beyond words.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James (aka Mona D. Sizer)”

Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor

golden torment
Janelle Taylor

Zebra’s Superstar Romance Author

Although Janelle Taylor has written books for various publishing houses, she will always hold a special place in the early years of the Zebra publishing company. Along with authors like Sonya T. Pelton, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Rosanne Bittner, and others, she helped to form the pantheon of the Kensington line’s “Leading Ladies of Love.” Authors were given liberties to write different kinds of romances. Taylor’s passionate love stories appealed to readers across the country. Where the Avon ladies could rely on taut, crisp editing, the Zebra authors had a bit less oversight, with Zebra president Roberta Grossman and Kensington chief Walter Zacharius choosing to focus on the impressive cover art.

Indeed, a surefire sign that Taylor was one of the genre’s superstars were the artists who designed covers for her books. Walter Popp famously did the artwork for her first few books. Artists like Elaine Gignilliat, the ubiquitous Pino, and Janelle’s friend Elaine Duillo would paint many gorgeous covers for her books.

Janelle Taylor has over 50 books with 60 million copies in print. She is best known for her Gray Eagle series and Lakota, Moondust, and Lakota Skies novels. Her books have been translated into 50 different languages.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor”