Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor

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.

Life Before Romance

Janelle Diane Williams was born June 28, 1944, in Athens, Georgia. She graduated from Athens High School in 1962 and spent the next three years as an orthodontic nurse in Athens. In 1965, she married Michael Taylor. Two daughters, Angela and Alisha, were the happy results of their marriage.

From 1969 through 1972, Taylor worked as an orthodontic nurse. Over the next few years, she would work and spend time furthering her education. In 1980 she enrolled in Augusta State University.

The Queen of Ecstasy and ‘Dust

After hearing some words of wisdom from author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Janelle Taylor began writing in 1977. She would sell a novel to Zebra. The Native American romance Savage Ecstasy was published in 1981. A sequel, Defiant Ecstasy, followed it. They both sold millions of copies. Janelle quit college to focus on writing full-time.

The hefty romances told the tale of a white frontierswoman named Alisha Sinclair and her Native American warrior lover, Gray Eagle. The books were bestsellers and would be the first two in a series of nine novels about Alisha and Gray Eagle and their progeny.

defiant ecstasy
Defiant Ecstasy, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1981, Walter Popp cover art

Many other romances followed for Zebra, such as  Love Me With FuryGolden Torment, and Destiny’s Temptress.

Taylor would write for other publishers as well. In 1984 she would make a brief foray into category romance with her Harlequin American Romance Valley of Fire. Two years later, she would publish Moondust and Madness with Bantam books. The story was a fantasy romance about an alien who comes to Earth to spirit away the heroine to his own galaxy. This book was a revolutionary romance in a time where paranormal themes and romance rarely mixed. Taylor would write three more space romances to complete the series.

moondust and madness
Moondust and Madness, Janelle Taylor, Bantam, 1986, Elaine Duillo cover art.

Other fantasy and Native American romances followed, as well as contemporaries. In the 21st century, Taylor would also venture into romantic suspense.

Where is She now?

To get more pictures of covers and in-depth information, please visit our Janelle Taylor author page.

Have you read romances by Janelle Taylor? If so, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

By Jacqueline Diaz

1 reply »

  1. HI, Jacqueline.

    First, excellent article. I appreciate the care, attention to detail and depth of research you do to write these articles. It is truly appreciated.

    I have read 12 of Mrs. Taylor’s books (all of which were historical romances) and, like most authors, I have mixed feelings toward her work. She’s written books that were in my view really great, and others that were total clunkers.

    Upside: Mrs. Taylor is a very evocative author, meaning that she does a great job inviting me as a reader into the world of her characters and making them feel like real people and not words on a page or screen. That is very important to me as a reader, as I want to feel emotionally invested in the books I read.

    Downside: I REALLY despised Gray Eagle, the “hero” of her “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series. The levels of abuse he inflicts on Alisha is not defensible, although Mrs. Taylor spends several books trying to. I try to allow for the fact that the books were published in the 1980’s and that was the standard for romance novel heroes, but it’s very hard to do.

    I haven’t yet read her “Saar” (the space romance series) or her contemporaries yet, so I’ll have to see how I feel about those. But Mrs. Taylor was certainly a prolific author by content and deserves to be recognized for that.

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