For the Love of Sara isn’t one of Anne Mather’s bests. It features a rather unlikeable hero, which is par for the course for Mather. He’s named, pompously enough, Joel Kingdom. It doesn’t help that he’s a functioning alcoholic who keeps cans of beer in his glove compartment to help him deal with stress.
Plus, Joel has horrible fashion sense. He’s one of those cheroot-smoking males so prevalent in Mather’s books. He shows off his vintage 70’s wardrobe, wears silk shirts open down to his waist, revealing his hairy, medallioned chest. He decks out in maroon velvet tuxedos, lots of tight-fitting corduroy bell-bottoms, and even a sexy matching blue suede suit.
Joel Kingdom is a successful artist from a highborn, wealthy family. His father disowned him when he refused to go into the family banking business.
Besides talking about romance in fiction, at Sweet Savage Flame, we’re touching on romance in real life. In this latest entry to our “Real Life Romance” discussion, we’re addressing the issue of what men and women search for in life partners. As members of two sexes, are we hard-wired to seek out mates for different reasons? What does the role of society and government play in relationships? Is love impossible in real life and merely a game of giving and taking?
(Note: This article speaks in generalities. It in no way presents a complete picture of the complicated relationship issues between men and women.)
What Do Men & Women Want in Partners?
If you’re brave enough to delve into the depths of the manosphere, you’ll hear a lot of talk about hypergamy, usually as an invective against females. Female hypergamy is the idea that women choose mates from a more established background, be it social, financial, and/or educational. This is both to improve their rank in society and ensure their children will be provided for.
Jennifer Wilde, aka Mr. Thomas E. Huff, wrote a few bodice rippers before writing romances that weren’t bodice rippers but not quite traditional romances either.
Angel In Scarlet isn’t a bodice ripper. It’s a Georgian-Era chick-lit. This is a hard one to categorize. It’s not just a romance, but more of a heroine’s journey through life and her relationships with several men she meets along the way.
Angel in Scarlet begins when our heroine Angela Howard is a child. At twelve years old, she meets Hugh, the man who will haunt her for her entire life. They have a strange first meeting: she’s a peeping Tom trying to catch an eyeful of some action, when Hugh, who’s 16, discovers her then gives her a spanking as a discipline!
Angela grows up with her cruel sisters and mother. Poor Angie, she’s so unattractive with her rich, chestnut hair, violet-gray eyes, and enormous boobies. Who would ever love her?
This review is of Texas Blonde, book #3 in the “The Lady and the Cowboy” series by Victoria Thompson. (Zebra/Kensington, October 1987). This review is of the ebook version of the book.
Heroine: Felicity Storm, 18. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Photographer.
Hero: Josh Logan, 28. Silver/white hair (it’s a hereditary thing), gray eyes. Owner, Rocking L ranch.
The book begins with the hero, Josh Logan, a rancher, rescuing Felicity Storm, the book’s heroine, from several calamities –flash floods, homelessness, hunger. As they spend more time together, they become attracted to each other, become lovers, and decide to marry. We also learn about their respective histories. However, Josh is determined not to fall in love with Felicity.
Even so, Felicity and Josh do fall in love and get married. However, many threats, both internal and external, challenge their happiness.
In the end, the external threats are vanquished, the internal threats are discussed and addressed, and Felicity and Joshua have their Happily Ever After.
2021 has been one heck of a ride. We started this site in late March. Sweet Savage Flame was created on a whim.
Our love for old-school romance is something we’re delighted to share with our readers. We’re happy to say that now in late December, our little niche site averages 1,000 views a week. It couldn’t have been done without you.
Thank you so much for making this a special year.
For the week of Monday, December 27, 2021, to Sunday, January 2, 2022, we’re greeting the new year in style with fireworks on romance covers!
Beverly Jenkins’ Through the Storm is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent. I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that. Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.
Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of the book, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners. Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins”
Giuseppi Dangelico Daeni is better known as Pino Daeni, or simply Pino. He was a romance industry icon who created over 3,000 book covers in about 15 years. He spent almost the last twenty years of his life working as a fine artist of great acclaim.
Pino’s childhood visual memories consisted of females left behind to keep the home fires burning. His mother, aunts, grandmothers, and cousins became a universe of attractive women in aprons. Throughout the uncertain times of World War II, they maintained domestic tranquility. Pino would always cherish the feminine ideal. That appreciation shone through his paintings.
Pino created portraits that celebrated the beauty of women, children, and families. A talent in the tradition of his Italian forebears, Pino’s artwork was a bridge between classical romanticism and contemporary realism.
Pino was born in Bari, Italy, on November 8, 1939, to a large family with numerous children.
His first-grade teacher recognized his talents and advised his father to encourage Pino’s gifts. His father was initially skeptical of this recommendation but changed his mind when he saw his son’s artwork.
“When I was eight, my older brother would have to draw for school.
Over 22 years and under two different publishers, Johanna Lindsey wrote 12 romances about the Malory & Anderson clans. These books were massive hits with her many fans, with some readers claiming them as favorites, especially Gentle Rogue. Her novel, The Present, is moderately short at just over 300 pages. It tells two parallel love stories set in different eras in England, portraying the Malory clan in the past and the “present.” No matter how time changes, the love lives of the family remain the same.
It is Christmas time. The Malory’s–wives, husbands, and children–assemble at Haverston, the family patriarch’s estate. Lord Jason Malory is a Marquis and father to Derek, the hero from Say You Love Me. Readers familiar with that novel should know the dark family secret. Derek is not a child of the legitimate union between his father and his wife. Jason had an affair with a mysterious woman and Derek was the result of that. The mystery woman is Jason’s long-time maid, Molly.
Michelle Reid’s Marriage on The Rebound is about keeping it all in the family. Shaan Saketa is unique for a Harlequin Presents circa 1998 heroine, as she’s of mixed ethnic heritage: English and Lebanese. Otherwise, she’s like most other female main characters found in the land of these category romances. Shaan is young (not yet 23), a virgin, and an orphan.
And it’s her wedding day. Unfortunately for Shaan, she’s about to be dumped at the altar.
Shaan is in her wedding dress when her fiancé’s brother and former boss, Rafe Danvers, comes to her with a “Dear John” letter. Her husband-to-be, Piers, says he can’t marry her because he’s in love with another woman. Shaan is dejected, and her family is certain that there’s more than meets the eyes to this abrupt breakup. Rafe, ever the responsible fellow, is determined to help Shaan save face. He steps in and urges her to marry him. In shock, Shaan goes through the motions.
You can find great deals for vintage books on Kindle at Amazon. If you have a Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books at a time for no extra cost. Additionally, there are many books available on the Kindle Unlimited program, where you pay a monthly or annual fee for borrowing as many books as you want.
If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow these romances for free. 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:
This review is of Midnight Princess, book #1 in the “Marshall Brothers” series by Jo Goodman, a pseudonym used by Joanne Dobrzanski. Published by Zebra/Kensington, November 1989, the book was later reissued as Her Defiant Heart. (This series connects to Ms. Goodman’s “Dennehy Sisters” series). This review is of the original print book.
Heroine: Jenny Holland, 24. Brown hair and eyes. Mystery woman.
Hero: Christian Marshall, 31. Copper hair, aquamarine eyes. Publisher, New York Chronicle newspaper.
Location: New York City, New York. December 1866-May 1867.
Tropes: Historical Romance. Mystery woman. Newspaper publisher. New York City.
The book starts in New York City, December 1866. Christian Marshall, the hero, one of the series’ eponymous titular characters, and publisher of the New York Chronicle newspaper is at a hospital for people experiencing emotional distress. He’s watching one of the “patients,” a woman known as Jane Doe, being treated. He feels sympathy for her and decides to help her.
December is coming to its end. This week will bring us both the Winter Solstice and Christmas. It’s time to celebrate with some romance covers featuring cold winterscapes.
Cuddle up in a warm blanket because the coldest season is here! The first snowfalls of winter are a magical time with a layer of frosty white covering the lands. Then you get tired of it all after two weeks of endless blizzards and constantly shoveling your driveway! 😁
For the week of Monday, December 20 to Sunday, December 26, 2021, let’s take delight in some icy covers featuring snow.
Have a Jolly Winter Solstice, Happy Festivus, and a Merry Christmas!
To be considered a romance, a book must have a happy ending, just as every detective novel must include a mystery to solve. That’s the only rule for the genre.
Some older romances played fast and loose with expectations, especially ones published during the bodice ripper heyday. In the past, some novels–and even many today–attempted to defy that inviolable law. Doing so inevitably angers readers because if there’s one thing writers are not supposed to mess with, it’s The Happy Ending.
Not all romances end with the couple–or whatever permutation–married with a dozen babies. Regardless, there’s an expectation of a committed relationship that will last the test of time.
But what about those romances that broke the HEA rule? What are those books, and what is their legacy? Let’s examine some pre-2000s novels that did the unthinkable.
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas features one of her most beloved characters, Derek Craven. Derek was previously seen in Then Came You, whose reserved hero, Alex Raiford, was more to my liking. This is a beautiful romance by the talented Kleypas where two people from contrasting social classes come together in love.
Sara Fielding is a novelist in Regency-era England. She’s not ravishingly beautiful, wears spectacles, and is a rather curious woman. Her novels address the fallen people in society. Sara’s out at night in a rough London neighborhood to investigate material for her next book when she comes upon an altercation. She’s able to prevent the man from being killed, although not before his attackers cut him. The man she saves is the aforementioned hero, Derek Craven.
There are Christmas tales that inspire, ones that make us cry, and others that make us laugh with the joy of being alive. Too Many Husbands by Elise Title falls into the latter category. It’s a zany romp of a romance that could have been an old-fashioned screwball comedy on the live screen.
What does a woman do when she has not one, nor even two, but three husbands coming over for Christmas?
No, this Harlequin Temptation is not a remake of the 1940 romantic comedy of the same name starring Fred MacMurray and Jean Arthur. Nor is it related to the similarly-styled film “My Favorite Wife,” which starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Even so, you can see the influences as Too Many Husbands is as silly and enjoyable as those films.
Today, the age difference in romantic couples is between 2-3 years, with men mostly older and women younger. In the United States, a disparity of 1-7 years is the norm and seen as “socially acceptable.” With rapidly changing media and cultural mores, anything nearing a decade is almost an entire generation’s worth of difference.
Romance novels love to play around with age gaps. One of the most common themes in these books is a significant age difference between the hero and heroine. It’s not unusual to see heroes more mature than the heroines by at least a decade. The range can be as much as 15, 20, 25, or even 30 years!
There’s a popular trend in modern romances for “daddy” kink, where the men are more than 20 years older, and the heroines are in their late teens or early twenties. I don’t find that my cup of tea, but everyone has their preferences.
As for women, unless it’s a “cougar” romance, the heroines are rarely older than their heroes by many years. Usually, the age deviation is a decade or less. Even a contrast of a couple of years is seen as a “big deal.”... Read more “Age Differences In Romance”
This review is of Timeless Love, book #11, and the final book in the “Bachelor Arms” series. It is the second of two written by Judith Arnold, a pseudonym for Barbara Keiler. (Harlequin Temptation #565, published December 1995).
Heroine: Hope Henley, 25. Black hair, brown eyes. Sales clerk in a retail store.
Hero: Morgan Delacourt, 30. Brown hair and eyes. Cartoonist. New millionaire.
At the beginning of the book, Morgan Delacourt is celebrating his newly minted millionaire status. That happiness, however, is short-lived as Morgan hits Hope Henley with his car. Although it wasn’t his fault, Morgan feels immense guilt as Hope is in a coma as a result of the accident. He vows to take care of Hope, pays her medical expenses, and lets her move in with him.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is almost upon us. It’s a holiday of giving and love. What are you doing in the upcoming days to celebrate? Busy wrapping presents? Doing some last-minute shopping? Are you baking cookies and building gingerbread houses?
Not celebrating the season at all? That ok, as Christmas is a time of sharing no matter who you are. So we’re sharing some jolly covers!
For the week of Monday, December 13, 2021, to Sunday, December 19, 2021, we’re spreading some cheer and giving our loyal readers an early gift. Let’s get merry over some Christmas-themed romance covers!
There are lots of fun things you can do while reading romances. You can binge an author, series, or trope. You can even make a game of it. Sure you could play a drinking game and chug some spirits or hot cocoa every time the hero raises an eyebrow or the heroine thinks he’s too arrogant for his own good. In the spirit of that idea, we’ve designed a game of BINGO for you to play while enjoying your books.
Use our ready-made BINGO card. Play alone or compete with friends. You can’t lose and what you win is up to you!
You can also use our Bingo Template and fill in your own categories. Print out a full color or gray-scale BINGO card:
Kristin Hannah is a successful author of women’s fiction. It’s fortunate she found success in that genre because her romances I’ve encountered are–sad to say–lacking in excitement. When Lightning Strikes is a time travel romance that starts promisingly but takes a boring turn into snoozeville with its drawn-out plot. This should have been a category-length romance of 190 pages, not 400 pages long!
The setup of When Lightning Strikes is rather intriguing. Alaina Costanza is a single mother and a romance writer living in the present day. Or whenever Geraldo Rivera had a daytime talk show, so maybe “modern era’ would be more appropriate. Our main character is a writer who has no life but her daughter. Now that her daughter is away at a summer camp, she’s got nothing to do but pop pills and drink herself silly.
Rather a dark setup, but appropriate for this emotionally overwrought book.
In this new segment, we’ll be discussing romance–in real life.
Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or have just met a special someone, it’s essential to keep things exciting. Dates are as necessary to courting as they are to marriage.
There are traditional ways to spend time together. You can go for a cup of coffee, see a movie, have drinks at a bar, eat at a restaurant. If it’s a special night, you can go to a show, be it the opera, ballet, or other performance.
But what if you haven’t lots of cash to spend and still want to have fun together? There are so many things you can do with the one you love. Here are 60 cheap date ideas that you can spend both indoors and out.
Along with Anne Mather and Anne Hampson, Violet Winspear was one of the three original authors for the Harlequin Presents line when it launched in 1973. Her bestseller, The Honey is Bitter, was first published in 1967 by Mills & Boon. It had about 30 reprintings under Harlequin.
Characters & Plot
The Honey Is Bitter features a Greek hero named Paul. I swear, these classic Presents had about 5 or 6 names for heroes! Paul, Dominic, Nick/Nico, Alex, and Andre/Andreas. Plus, the plots were nonsensical, with an intimidating male running roughshod over the heroine, as occurs here.
This review is of The Lady in the Mirror, book #10 in the “Bachelor Arms” series, and the first of two books in the series written by Judith Arnold, a pseudonym for Barbara Keiler. (Harlequin Temptation #561, November 1995).
Heroine: Jessica (Jessie) Gale, 27. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Social worker and owner-operator of Rainbow House, a social service center for runaways.
Hero: Clint McCreary, 30. Black hair, gray eyes. Former New York City police officer. Recent law school graduate. Clint has a job with the Bronx County DA’s office when he goes back east. (He doesn’t).
The book begins with John Clinton “Clint” McCreary, former New York City police officer and the book’s hero, having just arrived in Los Angeles from New York in search of his missing half-sister, Diana. The first person he meets in Los Angeles is Jessie Gale, the heroine of the book. Jessie is a social worker who owns and runs a social services center for teenage runaways.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Lady in the Mirror by Judith Arnold”
The American-based Silhouette imprint existed from 1980 to 2011 when it officially went defunct. Simon & Schuster created the trade name to compete directly with Harlequin. During their run, they produced several innovative series. First the Romance line, then Desire, Special Edition, Intimate Moments, and more.
Although Harlequin acquired Silhouette in 1984, the imprint remained intact for over 25 years. Well, at least a few lines did.
Multiple talented authors wrote for Silhouette: Anne Hampson, Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, Diana Palmer, Elizabeth Lowell, Linda Howard, Jayne Ann Krentz (usually as Stephanie James), Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, and Maggie Shayne, among many others.
We’ve picked one shining example of excellence from 6 of their lines. Since they published a vast quantity of great romances, it wasn’t easy to decide which ones. But we think you’ll like our selections! Have you read any of the following romances? Are you surprised by the books we chose? Please, leave a comment, and let’s talk romance!
Irish Thoroughbred, a Silhouette Romance, was Nora Roberts’s debut novel, originally published in January 1981. Right out of the gate, Roberts created characters and plots that engaged the reader. Adelia Cunnane lives in Ireland.... Read more “6 Sensational Silhouette Category Romances”
For years his face on romance novels has mesmerized me.
Okay, maybe it’s the face plus the terrific, full head of hair. I’ve seen this man pictured on occasion as a brunet or with black hair. Most of the time, though, he’s blond, which I believe is his natural color. He’s one of the rare romance cover models who looks fantastic that way. This dude probably did shampoo advertisements in his day. He could have been a tv anchorman in the 1980s!
He was a prolific model from the 1980s to the early 1990s. I’ve seen him on lots of category and historical romance covers. The artists who painted his image most frequently were Ron Lesser, Elaine Gignilliat and Elaine Duillo, who had great rapport with her models.
I have a Pinterest page dedicated to this guy, with over 35 covers that I’m confident depict his image.
Who is he?
For the week Monday, December 6, 2021, to Sunday, December 12, 2021, I’ve chosen a selection of category and historical romances illustrated by big-name authors, featuring a mysterious male cover model whose name I’ve yet to discover. If any of our readers have any idea who he is, I would love to know!... Read more “Covers of the Week #35”
Meant To Be Married by Ruth Wind (aka Barbara Samuels) is a powerful romance that brought tears to my eyes. This second-chance-at-love story is underscored by superb characterization and a sensitive writer’s hand.
The Characters and Setup
Meant To Be Married begins a decade in the past when Elias Santiago and Sarah Greenwood defied their families to become lovers. The teenaged Romeo and Juliet were precisely that: two youths from feuding clans who fell in love with one another and had to keep their relationship secret. For over a century, Santiago and Greenwood blood has been shed via lynchings, murders, and suicides. Legend says the feud began when a Santiago male violated a Greenwood female. The Greenwoods hanged Santiago, and in turn, the Greenwood woman killed herself. Was it due to shame, or could it have been heartbreak?
Whatever the reason, the enmity between the families has grown stronger over time.
Along with Charlotte Lamb, Miranda Lee was my favorite writer from the Harlequin Presents line. Sadly, she passed away on November 13, 2021. She was 76. Lee wrote sensually charged romances that promoted the modern woman in all her forms.
An Author From Down Under
Miranda Lee, whose real first name was Maureen, was born in 1945 in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. She was the youngest of four children. Her older sister, Wendy, was also a successful writer for Harlequin under the pseudonym Emma Darcy. Wendy Brennan predeceased her sibling in 2020.
Lee’s father was a country school teacher and sportsman. Her mother was a dressmaker. At age 10, her father transferred to Gosford with the family. They moved to another rural town on the coast, much closer to the bustling Sydney metropolis.
Lee attended a convent school. She studied the cello and briefly pursued a career in classical music. Following that, she moved to Sydney, where she studied computer tech. Lee worked as a programmer before marrying her dear husband, Tony Lee. Together, they had three daughters. The family lived happily on a few acres of land with goats, horses, and greyhound dogs.
Heroine: Laureli Cade, 23, Auburn hair, blue eyes. Heiress to the Wildwood ranch empire.
Hero: Court McKennon, 35. Black hair. Gray eyes. Former detective at Scotland Yard, later Texas Rancher.
This review is of Texas Fire by Caroline Bourne. This book, published by Zebra/Kensington in March 1989, is the sequel to her book Texas Conquest.
The book begins in London, 1850, and will span 17 years. A woman is raped, and while trying to escape her attacker, falls and suffers serious injuries. This will set the tone for the rest of the book.
The scene then shifts to Brazoria, Texas, where Laureli Cade, the heroine of the book, lives on a sprawling ranch. Laureli is the only member of her immediate family in Texas right now; her father, Matthew, and mother, Mariah (the hero and heroine of Texas Conquest are in Europe, and Laureli’s younger brother, Timothy, is at West Point.
Before I discuss this romance, let me address the unfortunate cover. I don’t care how awesome that free book bag was! The editors at Harlequin dropped the ball with this one! That vast yellow oval covers the main couple’s faces. You can’t see the heroine, the hero, or that this was Emma Darcy‘s 60th book.
Simply titled Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy’s category romance foray into the holidays may have you near tears. It may also have you wishing some evil villains get their well-deserved comeuppance. This book throws almost every trope at you but the metaphorical kitchen sink. It’s an angst-filled yet ultimately very happy Christmas Harlequin Presents.
Many years ago, Meredith or Merry (Get it? Merry as in Merry Christmas?) Palmer had a summer romance with college student Nick Hamilton. Merry lied about her age, as she was technically a minor. She and Nick fell into what Meredith believed was true love. But Merry’s wicked stepmother caught wind of the relationship and informed the 21-year-old Nick he was dating a 16-year-old.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Merry Christmas by Emma Darcy”