Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer) is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.
Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.
The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.
This review is of Colorado Jewel, a standalone by Cate Brandt. (Zebra Heartfire, April 1989).
Heroine: Magheen Fitzgerald. Red hair, emerald eyes.
Hero: Daniel Calcord. Black hair, blue eyes. Businessman/lawyer.
The book opens in Colorado, early September 1878. Daniel Calcord, the hero of the book and a businessman with his fingers in many pies, is heading toward one of his enterprises, a silver mine in the town of Leadville. His trip is delayed, however, as Daniel helps to rescue Magheen Fitzgerald, the heroine of the book, from a stagecoach accident. He nurses her back to health and they face many perils, one of which is their attraction to each other.
When one of Maggie’s brothers, Patrick, a priest, catches them in a compromising position, they are compelled to marry. Their engagement doesn’t go well.
One of the amusing aspects about clinch poses is that no matter who the artist is, no matter the publishing house or the author, there are only so many variations the couple can engage in, that some poses become ubiquitous. One of my favorite mainstays of cover art is when…well when a lady loses her stays!
Personally, I find it alluring when a gown is draping off a lady’s back as opposed to other more revealing shots. The sight of bare skin and delicates bones down to the waist is more seductive and mysterious rather than seeing heaving breasts front and center. What say you?
This Covers of the Week for Monday, January 24, 2022, to Sunday, January 30 displays pretty historical romance covers with couples in clinch poses and heroines losing their tops while having a grand ole time of it.
She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out. “Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”
STRANGER IN MY ARMS
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Harlequin Historical #90
Rating: 5 out of 5.
My Absolute Favorite Historical Romance
There are many older romances I like out of pure nostalgia. When I re-read them, I know they’re not perfect, yet I enjoy them nevertheless. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings first caught my attention over thirty years ago, and I love it more today than I did back then. It even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now, sadly, defunct Romantic Times.
Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from the first, almost whimsical, paragraph:
If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.
Woman Hater (what a title!) by Diana Palmer is a 1987 Silhouette Romance that seems to be typical of the author’s style. The heroine is young, virginal, and escaping from a tragic past. The hero is a macho, Alpha male who was also burned by the past. He is an unabashed “woman-hater.”
Nicole White is a secretary at a prominent Chicago firm. She comes from a well-heeled family from Kentucky, blue-bloods to the core, plus cold and unloving. Her parents’ marriage was unhappy. Her father was a serial adulterer. When Nicole decided to cut contact with her family, her fiance dumped her. Then he got engaged to another prominent heiress, breaking Nicole’s heart in the process.
Distraught, Nicole has now moved to the big city to start over. Currently, her boss is suffering from an ulcer. The doctor recommends relaxation for a month. As he still has business matters to attend to, he requires the services of his secretary. So Nicole accompanies her boss to his family ranch in Montana.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Woman Hater by Diana Palmer”
These authors have been successful in the romance 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.... Read more “10 Vintage Romance Authors Relevant Today”
Ooh boy, where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre, the modern romance novel. Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper epic was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation.
Sweet Savage Love showed that women could have passionate sex with the hero outside of marriage and have passionate sex with men besides the hero. Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the main settings for Sweet Savage Love. This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.
Biographical information for Mrs. Edwards is fairly limited. She says on the back cover of her book Savage Surrender that she became interested in writing romance novels after reading books her friends gave her.
Mrs. Edwards’s first book, Portrait of Desire, a traditional historical romance, was published by Kensington’s Zebra imprint in June 1982.
Over the course of the next 27 years, Mrs. Edwards would author 108 books in total, which were published by four different publishing houses: Dorchester, Harlequin, Kensington, and Signet. In total, Mrs. Edwards wrote:
3 novellas appearing in anthologies.
Chippewa: 5 books.
Dreamcatcher Indian: 3 books.
Savage: 35 books.
Savage Secrets: 12 books.
Wild Arizona: 6 books.
Wild Tribes: 4 books. (Note: the 6 Wild Arizona and two of the Wild Tribes books are published under two different names by two different publishers.)
Approximately 41 standalone books. (It was hard to count them all).
JoAnn Ross’s Harlequin Temptation, Guarded Moments, takes us to the fictional European royal nation of Montcroix. Or, more precisely, it introduces us to the princess of the said fictional kingdom, the proud Chantal Giraudeau. The Giraudeau family is styled after Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco and their jet-setting brood that the paparazzi hounded.
Princess Chantal has quite a reputation behind her. She’s been pictured in the glossies with lots of men, and her intense but brief marriage to a race-car driver was no surprise to the press. However, she’s a woman of many identities, and there is more to her than meets the eye.
Chantal is coming to America to promote an art exhibition. There’s danger afoot, as a potential threat is making the rounds against her. Several mysterious accidents seem to have followed Chantal, and the government is taking those as serious threats.
This review is of Savage Surrender, book #1 in the “Savage Secrets” series by Cassie Edwards. (Reviewer notes: The original version was published by Ace in August 1987. The book was later republished by Jove (May 1991) and Leisure (May 1996). The “Savage Secrets” series is NOT to be confused with the “Savage” series which Mrs. Edwards also wrote.).
Heroine: Brenda Denise Pfleugger, 17, Red hair, blue eyes. Pioneer’s daughter.
Hero: Striped Eagle, 25. Black hair, brown eyes. Future chief of the White Bear band of Ojibwa Indians.
The book begins in Minnesota, circa 1840, at the home of the Pfleugger family, consisting of father Harrison, mother Carole, and their two children, daughter Brenda Denise, 17, and the heroine of the book, and son Tommie, 5. Sadly, this will be the last night the Pfleugger’s spend together. Their home is attacked by soldiers led by Major Joseph Partain.
Alessandro Biffignandi was an Italian artist who primarily illustrated comics. He also created album and book covers. His work was marked by a sensual nature, often depicting nude women in extreme sexual situations. He combined sex and horror in a sultry yet almost whimsical manner.
Biffignandi was born in Rome in 1935 and passed away in 2017.
He created many covers for Italian versions of English romances, While his work for English-language romance cover art is limited, his style is lovely and eye-catching, and worthy of appreciation.
For the week of Monday, January 17 to Sunday, January 23, 2022, here are some bright Alessandro Biffignandi painted romance covers. Enjoy!
Note: I had meant to write this up for the New Year, but the holidays and illness got in the way. Don’t plans always have a way of getting knocked aside by life? Nevertheless, we keep making them.😀 And making plans are we’re doing for Sweet Savage Flame!
Sweet Savage Flame was started in March 2021 by me Jacqueline Diaz. I have wonderful people who help out: Mary Anne and Blue Falcon, who is my rock.
So What’s the Deal With Sweet Savage Flame?
This article was inspired by a question I saw posted on Google: “Is there a website that has a list of all historical romance novels by a publisher?” I thought, of course, FictionDB or Library Thing must have those details. And they do, usually by imprint or series, but sometimes it’s not easy to find all the information at once. This got me contemplating our intentionsfor Sweet Savage Flame.
More than just a blog where we post reviews of romance novels written prior to 2000, I wanted this place to be a source of valuable information regarding the genre’s history.
In this series, we will focus on some underrated or overlooked romance novels. As I love them so much, we’re first looking at bodice rippers. Bodice rippers are “old-skool” old-school. These are the historical romances that revitalized romance with their unapologetic gratuitous nature, be it with sex or violence.
You never knew what to expect with these romances. In the 1970s, the early years of the romance genre, it was a bit like the Wild West. The main characters could be separated for the entire length of the book, or the heroine could have another lover besides the hero. A prospective hero could be even be killed off midway through–or even after the ending!
Some of these bodice rippers are not as well known as others we have previously discussed on Sweet Savage Flame, but we think they are worthy of attention.
These are your basic virginal or monogamous heroines with Alpha heroes. The hero may cheat or may not, but he uses force or “forced seduction” on the heroine in at least one moment.
Enslaved – Virginia Henley
A heroine finds herself catapulted back into Roman era times
The Copeland Bride – Justine Cole (aka Susan Elizabeth Phillips)
Oh boy, when I read “the heroine in pursuit plot” synopsis for this Harlequin Presents, was I ever excited to read it. Heroines who are determined to get their men are my favorite kinds! Alas, when the object of said pursuit is a mean arsehole, the chase isn’t worth it. Still, Hard to Get by Carole Mortimer was a wild, emotional whirlwind. With a more charismatic hero, I could have loved this as opposed to liking it.
As with so many Presents, this is an utter trainwreck, so you can’t look away.
Lara Sinclair, our heroine, is beautiful, rich, vain, and spoiled–the very opposite of a heroine. She’s a daddy’s little girl type. Lara’s used to getting what she wants with ease. All the boys want her. She flirts and trifles with their hearts, never giving what she knows is so easy to get.
Note: This was meant to be written the last week of 2021, but Covid made the rounds and all plans were laid waste. So we’re saying goodbye to 2021 and starting 2022 a little later than we expected.
Sweet Savage Flame’s posted over 300 book reviewsin 2021. Ok, we confess we didn’t read that many! Quite a few of those reviews are reblogs. But others are for romances we enjoyed in 2021.
We’re making a list of our “best” reviews of the year.
As this was our first year in existence we’re throwing rules out the window. Besides, we read old-school and vintage romances. So even though this is a “best-of-list,” there are no hard and fast rules, other than we think they’re great books and have critiqued them!
Let’s take a look at 9 fantastic romances–written up to 25, 35, or even 45 years ago–which we wrote about in 2021 and gave 5-star ratings.
Danelle Harmon’s Georgian-era historical romance series of four brothers and one sister begins with The Wild One. Lord Gareth de Montforte is one of the younger sons of the de Montforte clan. His eldest brother is a Duke. Another older brother, Charles, was a soldier who went to fight in the Americas and is presumed dead. The family will soon find that particular brother left behind some unchecked baggage they will have to carry.
Each one of the de Monforte Clan has a moniker describing their personalities. Gareth is an impetuous rake-in-the-making with a heart of gold and is labeled “The Wild One” of the group. He’s like an overgrown frat boy who likes to party with his buddies and play practical jokes. It is upon his irresponsible shoulders where familial duties will fall.
This review is of The Other Woman, book #1 in the “Hollywood Dynasty” series by Candace Schuler. (Harlequin Temptation #451, July 1993).
Series overview: “Hollywood Dynasty” focuses on three siblings, children of a legendary Hollywood couple, as they make their names in the same industry that made their parents famous.
Heroine: Tara Channing, 25. Strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes. Actress.
Hero: Gage Kingston. 30. Dark brown hair, amber eyes. Cinematographer.
The book begins in Montana, on the set of a movie, “The Promise.” A love scene is being filmed featuring two of Hollywood’s top sex symbols, actress Tara Channing, the book’s heroine, and actor Pierce Kingston. Also in attendance is Pierce’s brother, cinematographer Gage Kingston, the hero.
Tara and Gage become lovers, but both are unwilling to share more than their bodies. They later learn, however, that passion without protection has consequences. Gage gets Tara pregnant, and they break up.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand/ And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/ Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/ And Eternity in an hour.
This week’s romance cover theme takes to the Middle East. There’s something alluring about the desert-lands of the Orient. Whether it be a fantasy of being swept away by the leader of a caravan tribe or taken into a sheik’s private harem of one, passionate images exist for them all.
For the week of Monday, January 10, 2022, to Sunday, January 16, 2022, our latest Covers of the Week highlights romances set in the Middle East.
In this new year, we’ll be busy with more reviews, articles, and information about your favorite old-school romance novels. We’ll try to keep up with the great momentum of 2021 that brought us here. What’s on the horizon for this year?
One new addition you can look forward to in the upcoming weeks and months includes a dedicated page for romance cover models, both male & female. We’re going beyond Fabio!
Look for more cover artists, publishers, and romance trivia.
Upcoming Book Reviews
Some of the books that we will review in 2022 include:
Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.
Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.
Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Guilty Love by Charlotte Lamb”
This review is of Desert Slave, a standalone novel by Miranda North. (Zebra Heartfire, May 1989).
Heroine: Juliette Hawkins, copper red hair, blue eyes. No occupation.
Hero: Deric Raleigh. Dark brown hair, green eyes. Caravan trader.
As the book begins, Juliette Hawkins, 19, the book’s heroine, is excited. Her guardian and uncle, Lionel Hawkins, has accepted a diplomatic assignment in Malta and is taking Juliette with him. On the trip, however, Juliette is kidnapped by Bedouin pirates. She is later given to Deric Raleigh, the hero of the book.
As they travel in the desert, Juliette and Deric become lovers. Soon after, however, Deric becomes distant, so Juliette decides to leave him. Big mistake, as she ends up in trouble that he has to save her from.
Later, they part company. They reunite in Malta when Deric asks Juliette to join him on a dangerous mission.
Juliette and Deric engage in their mission, which is mostly successful.
Happy 2022! Our first Covers of the Week for this new year features artist Robert Maguire, aka R. A. Maguire.
Robert A. Maguire is a legendary name when it comes to paperback covers. From pulps to romance, he illustrated all genres of fiction. Maguire was born in New Jersey in 1921. He then passed away in 2005. As a commercial artist, he produced artwork for all the publishing companies–big and small. Over nearly 50 years, Maguire would paint 1,300 covers.
In romance, he was prolific, creating covers for contemporaries, categories, traditional regencies, and historicals. Perhaps he is most notorious in the genre for the three-armed heroine on the cover of Patricia Gallagher’s Castles in the Air.
Even so, one “off-looking” cover does not represent the totality of his storied career. Besides the beauty of it, I appreciate his style as it’s instantly recognizable. In addition, Maguire never failed to sign his work, making him an easy artist to spot.
This week we’re focusing on Maguire’s historical covers. Later, we’ll highlight some of his series romances.
For the week of Monday, January 3, 2022, to Sunday, January 9, 2022, we’re admiring a sample of glorious historical romances by talented Robert A.... Read more “Covers of the Week #39”
It’s a new year and with that comes new resolutions. Get more organized, follow through on goals, keep the momentum going. With this free downloadable planner, you can create your own specialized reading journal. Print as many sheets as needed.
Click on the link below to download a free 4-page PDF reading planner kit.