Bodice Ripper

Overlooked or Underrated Romances: Bodice Rippers

Let’s Give These Old Skool Romances Another Look

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.

The Sweet

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)
  • Island Flame — Karen Robards
  • Bonds of Love – Lisa Gregory
  • Paradise and More – Shirl Henke
    • Set during the age of Columbus in Spain & Santo Domingo
  • Royal Seduction– Jennifer Blake
  • Embrace and Conquer – Jennifer Blake
  • Edin’s Embrace – Nadine Crenshaw
    • Viking romance done right
  • Rose of RaptureRebecca Brandewyne
    • During the Wars of the Roses, two families come together in marriage and court intrigues
  • Lovefire – Deana James
    • This tells the fictional life story of Joanna of Navarre. I LOVE this book.
edin's embrace

My Personal Faves:

We have reviewed all these “sweet” bodice ripper romances, so you can check them out!

The Savage

These romances feature heroines with more than one lover or sexual experience other than the hero. The main couple may be separated for a long period of time. The hero may other lovers as well.

  • Sea Fire – Karen Robard (sequel to Island Flame)
  • Love’s Wildest Fires – Christina Savage*
  • Raven – Shana Carol (aka Christina Savage* aka Frank Schaeffer & Kerry Newcomb)
  • This Ravished Rose – Anne Carsley
  • This Triumphant Fire – Anne Carsely
  • The Winged Lion – Anne Carsley
    • Love in Ancient Sumeria
  • Jemma – Beverly Byrne
  • The White Rose – Marcella Thum
  • BelovedBertrice Small
    • Love in Ancient Palmyra & Rome. Queen Zenobia is taken Prisoner by Emperor Aurelian. She falls for a British-Roman soldier.
  • Dare to Love – Jennifer Wilde
    • A fictionalized version of Lola Montez
  • No Gentle Love – Rebecca Brandewyne
    • An arranged marriage between cousins leads to continent hopping from England to France to India to China
  • Forever My Love – Rebecca Brandewyne
    • Star crossed lovers from battling Scottish clans find love amidst a bloody backdrop
  • Sweet Rush of Passion – Lois Lowry
    • Takes place in Russia
  • The Golden Sovereigns – Jocelyn Carew
    • A most unusual, sensitive bodice ripper
  • Follow the Shadows – Jocelyn Carew
the golden sovereigns

The Loco

These romance novels are hard to categorize. Do they even qualify as romance novels? Hold on tight because these romances are not for the easily offended–by derogatory tropes or bad writing in general.

  • This Ravaged Heart – Barbara Riefe
    • This–ahem–romance sold 1,000,000 copies. Barbara Riefe is a pen name for Alan Reife. This book is cheekily dedicated to “Alan, with Love.” Highlights: Incest & Demon Sex. Lowlights: Poor plotting & lackluster second half.
  • The Rain Maiden – Jill M. Phillips
    • This has been on my personal to-be-read-list for ages. I have it on reliable authority that this faux-biographical romance is filled with OTT enjoyment that makes a bodice ripper such a blast.
  • Passion’s Proud Captive – Melisssa Hepburne (aka Craige Broude)
    • Yet another million-copy bestseller written by a man. Highlights: The heroine is tossed around from one harrowing and ridiculous sexual adventure. Lowlights: The shame of enjoying it.
  • Passion’s Blazing Triumph – Melisssa Hepburne
    • Sequel to PPC; Heroine sexes Marquis de Sade, Napoleon, Beethoven
  • Passion’s Sweet Sacrifice – Melisssa Hepburne
    • Love in World War I
  • Passion’s Wicked Torment – Melisssa Hepburne
    • Love in the Age of Prohibition
  • The Purity Series (3 Books): Purity’s Passion; Purity’s Ecstasy; Purity’s Shame – Janette Seymour (aka Michael Butterworth)
    • All similar plots. Don’t feel lost if you decide to read book 2 or 3; the hero is just a prize.
  • Emmie’s Love – Janette Seymour
    • More romps like in the Purity series
  • Alyx – Lolah Burford
    • A White man and woman are enslaved on a Caribbean island and forced to mate together to repoduce for their master.
passion's wicked torment

The Mystery Box

These books sold millions of copies each but are not spoken about much today. Other than a few reviews posted on Amazon or Goodreads and reading the book blurbs, we have no idea what to expect.

  • Proud Passion – Barbara Bonham
    • This book sold half a million copies in its first six months alone, becoming a blockbuster phenom and helped put Playboy Press on the map
  • Storm Of Desire – Paula Fairman
    • Paula Fairman was actually Paul and he wrote a couple of very successful books. Paul died but the publishers kept his name going for years
  • Love’s Avenging Heart & its sequel Dancer of Dreams – Patricia Matthews
    • (She earned the moniker of “American’s First Lady of Historical Romance” in the 1970s. She sold tens of millions of books, and several multi-million-seller books back to back, but doesn’t have much a reputation today.)
  • Love’s Bold Journey – Patricia Matthews
  • Love’s Sweet Agony – Patricia Matthews

Your Opinion

Are you a fan of bodice ripper romances, or do you prefer “gentler” old-school historicals? Have you heard of these romances? If so, have you read any of them? As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

3 replies »

  1. Underrated are my favorite recommendations! I only have one offering from my collection of underaged romances and that’s THE ROPE DANCER by Roberta Gellis. This book is a sweet bodice ripper with a touch of loco thrown in and it’s not just one of my favorite romances, but one of my favorite books period .

    – one of the best “charming rogue” alphas of all time. He also is the nurturing type who doesn’t really force anything on the heroine after he learns of her past abuse ( this of course involves rape, but nothing graphic ).
    -This is a medieval romance where the hero and heroine aren’t lord or ladies. Both of them are players and while the hero does have a rich family they don’t have quite the wealth of most medieval romance characters
    -A little person as an important secondary character. He is the hero’s best friend and he’s fully fleshed out ( with a few mellow dramatic moments here and there, but nothing too terrible ). He even gets a love interest of his owns.

    Basically This is a really good book that I cannot recommend enough .

    • Hello Kes,

      Roberta Gellis was a stellar author and I can’t get enough of her medievals. I’ll be posting a review of one of my favorites, Fire Song, soon.

      I remember The Rope Dancer, or at least parts of it. It’s one of those reads I regret not finishing, as it was lost in the great book purge of the late 1990s (My parents tossed out all my books when I went to college. What a loss!) I agree, the non-nobility factor was quite intriguing.


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