Author Spotlight: Johanna Lindsey

johanna lindsey
Johanna Lindsey

A Historical Romance Favorite

To this day, I still mourn the passing of a romance great, Johanna Lindsey. Lindsey holds a special place in my heart, more so than any other historical romance author. Oddly enough, the first Lindsey I read was not a historical romance, but her 1990 science-fantasy romance, Warrior’s Woman. After that, her books became an addiction for me.

It’s no wonder that her publishers labeled her with the motto “Everyone Loves a Lindsey.” She reached the #1 position on the New York Times Best Seller list with Defy Not the Heart, Angel, and other books. Lindsey sold over 60 million copies of her approximately 56 published romance novels. Her works were translated into at least a dozen different languages.

warrior's Woman
Warrior’s Woman, Johanna Lindsey, Avon. 1990, Elaine Duillo cover art

Life, Love, Family, & Career

Lindsey was born Johanna Helen Howard on March 10, 1952, in Frankfurt, Germany, to Edwin Dennis Howard, a soldier in the U.S. Army, and his wife, Wanda Lindsey (nee Castle). After her father died in 1964, Lindsey and her mother settled in Hawaii, as her father had always dreamed of doing.

While still attending high school, at the age of 18, Lindsey met her one true love, Ralph Bruce Lindsey. They married soon after. The couple had three sons: Alfred, Joseph, and Garret. Lindsey would lovingly dedicate many of her books to her family members.

Lindsey’s first historical romance, Captive Bride, an homage to E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, was published in 1977 by Avon. “I started writing as a hobby,” she once said. “I never thought of being a writer when I was young. Now I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” Every single one of her books made it to the bestseller lists.

captive bride
Captive Bride, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1977, Robert McGinnis cover art

Sadly, Lindsey’s husband died tragically young in 1994. After Ralph’s passing, Lindsey moved to Maine to be closer to her sons. More changes were to follow. In 2001, after producing 37 books with Avon for over 24 years, Lindsey switched over to big-name publisher Simon & Schuster.

Old School Bodice Ripper Legend

Although insular, shy, and sometimes reclusive, Lindsey was a champion for the romance genre. She always respected the writers who came before her. When asked who her favorite authors were, she responded: “Kathleen Woodwiss and Rosemary Rogers, who started this wonderful genre.”

As the years passed, however, some would deride the “bodice rippers” that had revolutionized the romance industry. Lindsey, like all authors, had her detractors. The beautiful painted covers of her books would be dismissed as “gaudy” by those who felt the images of naked men and women with heaving breasts somehow diminished the romance genre.

Her novels have also been attacked for being “problematic,” which can mean many things to many people. But, despite the naysayers, Lindsey has her staunch defenders. “Johanna’s strong, feminist heroines were revolutionaries in their own right — fighting for partnership, respect, and happily ever after,” author Sarah McLean has said. “These were heroines who captained their own fate… They lived fearlessly, fought passionately, and loved with abandon… And they inspired millions of us to do the same.”

The Lindsey Cover: A Thing of Beauty

A Lindsey cover was a thing of wonder. The talented artist Robert McGinnis painted the covers of 13 of her books. The first two, Captive Bride and A Pirate’s Love, were tame compared to the “naked man” phase that started with Fires of Winter.

fires of winter
Fires of Winter, Robert McGinnis artwork

Some of her book covers were quite racy and controversial. As a result, many booksellers refused to sell Tender is the Storm. So to cover up the hero’s rear, stickers were provided by the publisher. Further printings would have the cover emblazoned with a golden starburst.

tender is the storm
Page from The Art of Robert E. McGinnis

A Gentle Feuding was not released in the U.S. in its original form, where the hero Jamie is fully naked. However, other nations were not so censorious.

un DULCE enemistada gentle feuding
Slide the arrow left to right to see more or less of Jamie in the nude!
a gentle feudingun DULCE enemistad
A Gentle Feuding, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1984, Robert McGinnis cover art (Spanish language version & North American release)

With the release of Hearts Aflame, the sequel to Fires of Winter, Lindsey’s cover artist changed from McGinnis to Elaine Duillo. Duillo famously used Fabio Lanzoni as the male cover model for many of Lindsey’s books.

hearts aflame
Hearts Aflame, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art, cover model Fabio

Starting with Once a Princess, Lindsey’s books would have stepback covers. Duillo would get a little more graphic with her work, as she did for the interior of Man of My Dreams.

man of my dreams
Stepback interior, Man of My Dreams, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1992, Elaine Duillo cover art, cover model Fabio

Farewell to Johanna

Lindsey’s husband Ralph passed away 24 years into their marriage. Johanna outlived him by another quarter of a decade. She never remarried. Somehow her books were never quite the same after his death.

After Johanna left Avon for Simon & Schuster, her books were tamer, with less dominant heroes. As a result, she transformed into a different kind of romance writer for a different age. Still, Johanna had millions of fans who loved her works and the memories and joy they provided. I will always be one of them.

Johanna Lindsey moved from Maine to reside in Nashua, New Hampshire. It was there on October 27, 2019, that she passed away at age of 67 due to lung cancer. Her final book, Temptation’s Darling, was released in July 2019. Lindsey left behind three sons, several grandchildren, and millions of readers who cherish her memory.

temptations darling
Temptation’s Darling

For more information about Johanna Lindsey and for reviews of her books, visit our Johanna Lindsey Page.

Your Opinion

Are you a fan of Johanna Lindsey’s books? If so, what are your favorites? Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

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