Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor

Janelle Taylor

Janelle Taylor, A Queen of Romance Books

Although Janelle Taylor has written books for multiple publishers, she will always hold a special place in the early years of Kensingngton’s Zebra imprint. Along with authors like Sonya T. Pelton, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Rosanne Bittner, she helped to form the pantheon of Zebra’s “Leading Ladies of Love.”

Authors had the liberties to write whatever they wanted, within certain guidelines. 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. Zebra president Roberta Grossman and Kensington CEO Walter Zacharius chose to focus on dazzling covers instead.

Zebra’s Superstar Romance Author

Indeed, a surefire sign that Taylor was one of the genre’s superstars were her covers. Only the best artists 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 as well for Taylor.

Janelle Taylor wrote over 50 books. She has 60 million copies in print.

Taylor is best known for her Gray Eagle series and Lakota, Moondust, and Lakota Skies novels. Her books have been translated into 50 different languages.

janelle taylor

Life Before Romance

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

From 1969 through 1972, Taylor worked as an orthodontic nurse. Over the next few years, she worked on furthering her education. In 1980 she enrolled at Augusta State University. She never expected that her career would be a writer.

The Queen of Ecstasy and ‘Dust

It was after hearing some words of wisdom from author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, that Janelle Taylor decided to write a romance novel. She started her book in 1977 and worked on it for years. Zebra’s editors loved her manuscript and signed her to a contract.

Because the book would be so long, it had to be split into two parts. The Native American romance Savage Ecstasy was published in 1981. Defiant Ecstasy, the sequel, soon followed. Ultimately, they proved to be great successes. Both sold millions of copies. As a result, 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. Not only were they bestsellers, but they would be the first in a series of nine novels. The saga of Alisha, Gray Eagle, and their progeny were enormous hits.

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.

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 when 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.

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.

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.

Your Opinion

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

1 thought on “Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor”

  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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