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Covers of the Week #24

skylark

Hot air ballooning is said to be a delightful experience. The winds guiding you high above the earth as you drift through the fluffy, white clouds… It seems like an exhilarating time. Unfortunately, a paralyzing fear of heights makes me feel otherwise. My husband once surprised me with plans for a romantic ride and I refused to go. He ended up taking our daughter!

People were baffled at my reticence. Although I aim for courage, there are things I cannot face.

Need someone to kill a poisonous bug? I’m there with my wide-heeled shoe. Could I face a horde of bio-engineered, flesh-eating Zombies? Not a problem, I can shoot and wield a machete. How about cleaning litter boxes for 5 kitties? Bring it on, I’m a crazy cat lady. But fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere in a rickety basket with only ropes to cling to and giant flames above me jetting into a huge balloon? Never.

Still, they’re beautiful things to behold. From afar, what a magical sight to witness those colorful inverted teardrops float through the air! From a safe distance on land, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, of course.

For the week of September 20 to Monday, September 26, 2021, let’s appreciate these clinch poses on romance covers featuring hot air balloons!... Read more “Covers of the Week #24”

A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak

the hawk and the dove
Sharon Spiak at work

Spiak, The Book Cover Illustrator

Illustrator and fine-art painter Sharon Spiak has made a name for herself in the romance industry for producing various gorgeous covers for many bestselling authors. She also had the privilege to paint Fabio almost as much as the Duillo ladies did.

Hailing from the state of New York, Spiak studied fine arts at SUNY-New Paltz. She continued her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where she trained under prolific romance master Pino Daeni. In the 1980s and 1990s, Spiak would design hundreds of book covers, working with the top models and publishers.

Although Pino mentored her, Spiak was not his imitator. Her style is both uniquely her own and yet hard to pin down. The heroes and heroines Spiak paints have gorgeous hair flowing in waves or curls. While she adds extensive detail to backgrounds, the use of color in the foreground results in eye-catching covers. Like many artists, Spiak would have her models photographed in poses before sketching several possible covers. Spiak painted in various mediums, playing with hues and light to make her images pop out.

Spiak, The Book Covers

Among some of the earlier covers, Sharon Spiak produced were these two for Pocket Books’ Tapestry imprint.... Read more “A Closer Look At Sharon Spiak”

15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre

old school

These 15 Historical Romances published before 2000 either caused radical changes in the romance novel industry or they are so pivotal and unforgettable, they are must-reads. Please note, we at Sweet Savage Flame may not have read all books ourselves, but recognize their importance to the genre. Our aim is to review all books on this list if we haven’t already.

The List

... Read more “15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre”

Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #2

mansfield park

There are so many books listed on Amazon for free to read, that we had to post some more freebies!

Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books for free at a time. 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 (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

Classic Romance

MANSFIELD PARK by JANE AUSTEN

Contemporary Romance

FOR ALL THEIR LIVES by FERN MICHAELS

SERENDIPITY by FERN MICHAELS

Gothic Romance

THE INDIA FAN by VICTORIA HOLT

THE SECRET WOMAN by VICTORIA HOLT

the secret woman

THE SHIVERING SANDS by VICTORIA HOLT

THE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON by VICTORIA HOLT

Historical Romance

OUTLAW HEARTS by ROSANNE BITTNER

RAPTURE’S GOLD by ROSANNE BITTNER

WHISPER TO ME OF LOVE by SHIRLEE BUSBEE

DEVIL’S DESIRE by LAURIE MCBAIN

DEVIL'S DESIRE

MOONSTRUCK MADNESS by LAURIE MCBAIN

Moonstruck madness

LIONS AND LACE by MEAGHAN MCKINNEY

WILD ANGEL by MIRIAM MINGER

DEARLY BELOVED by MARY JO PUTNEY

SAVAGE ECSTASY by JANELLE TAYLOR

Savage Ecstasy

Kindle Unlimited

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, no doubt you already take advantage of the many books you can read for a fixed monthly fee.... Read more “Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #2”

Popular Romance Tropes

aerial view of city buildings near body of water

Let’s talk about tropes.

In the romance genre, we often see some types of plots or character types repeated. These similarities resonate for myriad reasons. Some tropes are common in vintage or old-school romance, but not so much in modern romances. Then there are tropes that never go out of style.

What’s the appeal of a trope? Readers appreciate experiencing familiar tales in different settings or with various kinds of characters. A trope can be retold over time and appear fresh in the hands of an individual author.

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re dedicating a page to these common themes. Visit the MENU under BOOK REVIEWS and click on ADVANCED BOOK SEARCH. You’ll find a new way to search for book reviews via plots, settings, hero & heroine. We’ll be updating the list with each review.

A few examples of tropes you can search for:

Amnesia

The main character losing his or her memory can lead to a great romance. A few romances that we’ve reviewed featuring this plot are Crescendo, Highland Fire, and Sweet Fire:

Second Chance at Love

Sometimes a romance is better the second time around with the same person.

Friends to Lovers

It’s always refreshing when a relationship starts out on a solid foundation of friendship.... Read more “Popular Romance Tropes”

Covers of the Week #22

quiet comes the night

At Sweet Savage Flame, we’ve been overlooking category romance covers in favor of flashier historical romance artwork, and it’s time to remedy that. Series cover art is just as lovely. However, sometimes the artwork is not as prominent as it is for historicals. In addition, the big-name cover artists usually produced illustrations for historical romance or full-length contemporary books. Sometimes they did step their toes into the waters of series or category romance and we’re happy that they did!

For the week of Monday, September 6, 2021, to Sunday, September 12, we’re looking at gorgeous category romance covers painted by some of the greatest artists of romance novels. Below are a few category romances illustrated by the legendary Elaine Duillo, Robert Maguire, Elaine Gignilliat, and Pino. Enjoy!

Link-O-Rama #3: Return of the Links

person typing on computer keyboard
person typing on computer keyboard
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Romance Book Blogs and Websites

These links to some of the best romance novel-loving sites and blogs should keep you busy. These sites are fun to look over to discuss romance or choose what book to read next:

If you’re looking for even more romance-book-related sites, these two blog feeds have lists of their most popular romance blogs. I like Feedly just fine, but if you look at #21 of Feedspot, you may see a familiar site 😉 :

Do you love beautiful romance covers? Do you enjoy taking pictures? Well, you can combine the two loves and show off your book collection. Use these hashtags to look for and post about romance novels on Instagram:

  • #bookstagram
  • #bookish
  • #romancestagram

New to romance or just out of the loop (don’t worry, I am too!)? If you’ve ever wondered what the terms HEA, HFN, or H/h mean, these guides to the lexicon of romance novels should keep you informed:

... Read more “Link-O-Rama #3: Return of the Links”

5 Great Vintage Romance Heroines and 5 Great Romances

5 Great Vintage Romance Heroines and 5 Great Romances List

Great Romance Heroines and Their Stories In Depth

My Name is Clary Brown

The heroine, a failed actress, is dumped by her “protector” and must return to her hometown in disgrace. Plus, she’s part Roma, so her mixed heritage has always made her an outsider. Mysterious disappearances and murders start to occur, and there are a couple of people who are suspects. The way Clary stands up for herself is thoroughly in keeping with her time period (the 1700s). A great vintage romance heroine, for sure.

Promise of Summer

Topaze, the heroine, is a poor thief on the streets of 18th century France, trying to support her large family. A calculating anti-hero propositions her to pose as a long-lost heiress so he can retain his family fortune. She’s young, cheerful, and despite what she’s involved in very innocent, with a dark past that comes to the forefront. She’s quite powerless in the grand scheme of things. She carries herself with dignity, showing an inner strength greater than the aristocrats she finds herself mingling among.

Silver Linings

“Low Down” Louise works in a mining community with men. She’s not a beauty but simple, hard-working, and positive. Low Down Louise vows to care for a child when a baby is born to a dying mother.... Read more “5 Great Vintage Romance Heroines and 5 Great Romances”

Free Vintage or Old School Romance Books on Amazon #1

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE

Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow up to 10 books for free at a time. 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 (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE by FERN MICHAELS

CAPTIVE INNOCENCE

HEART OF STONE by DIANA PALMER (retitled LONG, TALL TEXANS: BOONE)

THE MACKINNON’S BRIDE by TANYA ANNE CROSBY

THE PRIDE OF LIONS by MARSHA CANHAM

Kindle Unlimited

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, no doubt you already take advantage of the many books you can read for a fixed monthly fee. These old school romances are available to read on KU (original cover edition followed by Amazon image/link):

EMBRACE AND CONQUER by JENNIFER BLAKE

FIERCE EDEN by JENNIFER BLAKE

MIDNIGHT WALTZ by JENNIFER BLAKE

ROYAL PASSION by JENNIFER BLAKE

ROYAL SEDUCTION by JENNIFER BLAKE

SPANISH SERENADE by JENNIFER BLAKE

THE STORM AND THE SPLENDOR by JENNIFER BLAKE

SWEET PIRACY by JENNIFER BLAKE (aka PATRICIA MAXWELL)

LAVENDER LIES by CONSTANCE O’BANYON

PASSION’S WICKED TORMENT by MELISSA HEPBURNE

passion's wicked torment

Covers of the Week #21

sheik 1

This week Sweet Savage Flame is highlighting male cover models! We all know Fabio, John DeSalvo, and Steve Sandalis. But what about other men who modeled during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s? Looking at these attractive men, we can see how the image of the romance cover hero has evolved throughout the years.

The four men whose artful forms we’re appreciating are pictured on the covers below, left to right:

  • Chad Deal – Deal posed for hundreds of romance covers in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Perhaps one of the first cover model icons, Deal had a long and successful career. He posed for twice as many covers with Elaine Duillo as Fabio did ( 40+ vs. 19).
  • Guy Bishop – This internationally famous model lent his face to countless magazines and book covers. Bishop appeared in glitzy advertisements and walked the runways of Paris and New York, showing off designer clothes.
  • Mike Dale – Dale has worked for Bantam Loveswept, Silhouette/ Harlequin, Zebra, and many other publishers. His face was ubiquitous in 1990s romance covers, his down-to-earth appeal making him a natural for category romance. A true example of a silver fox, Dale now runs a life management business, teaches yoga, and models for catalogs and fashion magazines.
... Read more “Covers of the Week #21”

Romance Authors With Pseudonyms

yellow flower
yellow flower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…

ROMEO AND JULIET, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Pen Name, Nom de Plume, Alias, and Author Pseudonyms

Author and raconteur Mark Twain was born Samuel “Longhorn” Clemens. The legendary George Eliot was not a man but a woman named Mary Ann Evans. Even the famous J.K. Rowling shortened her given name of Joanne Kathleen to publish. The use of pen names is an aspect that exists in all fields of writing.

In the romance genre, an author might use an alias for various reasons. Perhaps their real name lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Because some romance writers produce fiction in multiple genres, different names are used. There are male novelists who want to appeal to the majority female audience. Or the authors could be married couples or duos who need catchy noms-de-plume.

Below is a brief list of writers and their pen names. Since hundreds of authors use aliases, this is a short compilation. Therefore we included only those we have reviewed, highlighted, or soon will review and/or explore in-depth. With each romance author pseudonym, we provide an example book title or link to a book review.... Read more “Romance Authors With Pseudonyms”

Covers of the Week #20

springs fury

In 1971 singer/songwriter Carole King wrote the lovely song: “You’ve Got a Friend,” which detailed the lasting strength of love. James Taylor recorded it to great acclaim. Other artists like Dusty Springfield and Michael Jackson would put their own twists on the tune. These simple lyrics always stick with me:

Winter, spring, summer, fall
All you have to do is call…

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND

The power of love is as old as the Earth and as constant as the four seasons. To live is to love! At Sweet Savage Flame, romance is in the air all year long. So to celebrate, from Monday, August 23, 2021, to Sunday, August 29, our 20th edition of Covers of the Week highlights four beautiful romance covers set during Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Do you have a favorite season for romance?

Covers of the Week #19

Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Historical Romance” covers. She was a giant in the competitive field of pulp fiction artwork, where women were few and far between. Duillo painted hundreds of book covers, was an inductee of the Illustrators Hall of fame, and was the matriarch of a talented artistic family. She passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.

This amazing cover artist influenced generations of illustrators, revolutionized romance cover art, and helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio. Pictured is one of Elaine’s most-loved covers, Defy Not the Heart, and it is also my all-time favorite cover. Although she created many gorgeous stepbacks, or “tip-ins,” as those in the industry called them, Duillo was not a fan. She believed the eye-catching covers she designed for romance novels were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that! I say. Those gorgeous jackets should be displayed proudly, not covered like some dirty secret!

We at Sweet Savage Flame lament her passing. Our thoughts and sympathy are with her family. We celebrate Elaine Duillo’s life as she brought much joy and beauty to countless tens of millions of readers worldwide.... Read more “Covers of the Week #19”

Covers of the Week #18

twilight temptress

One of my favorite romance cover artists from the 1980s, 1990s, and well into the 2000s is Gregg Gulbronson. For the week of Monday, August 9 to Sunday, August 15, 2021, we highlight his gorgeous covers.

While Gulbronson remains a mysterious figure (as far as I’ve researched, there is little to no information available about him on the internet), his artwork merits attention and awe. I adore his style, especially his older covers, for which he used an airbrushing technique to add a dreamy effect to the clinches. By the turn of the millennium, he had progressed to digital imaging, like almost all other book cover illustrators. You can find more artwork and information about this talented artist on our Gregg Gulbronson page.

How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title

question mark illustration
question mark illustration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Just like with a song you can hum, although the words elude you, it’s frustrating when you can’t remember the name of a book. Perhaps it’s a romance novel you read many years ago, and the details remain clear and crisp in your mind. Or it could be a striking cover that caught your eye or a blurb you saw that seemed enticing, and have nothing else to go by. Either way, you’re stuck and don’t know where to start. We have several ways to help you find the name of that book you can’t recall.

The human memory can be a tricky thing. If a person doesn’t eat right, get enough sleep, or stay physically active, days can blur together, and events seem the same. Alternatively, things like smells, music, and emotions can enhance memory. This is called associative memory, and it has helped me in recalling books. For me, Edith Wharton’s tragic tale of Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, stays in my mind as the book that kept me company in a lonely hospital room while my premature daughter fitfully slept in an isolette in the NICU.... Read more “How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title”

Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor

golden torment
Janelle Taylor

Zebra’s Superstar Romance Author

Although Janelle Taylor has written books for various publishing houses, she will always hold a special place in the early years of the Zebra publishing company. Along with authors like Sonya T. Pelton, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Rosanne Bittner, and others, she helped to form the pantheon of the Kensington line’s “Leading Ladies of Love.” Authors were given liberties to write different kinds of romances. 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, with Zebra president Roberta Grossman and Kensington chief Walter Zacharius choosing to focus on the impressive cover art.

Indeed, a surefire sign that Taylor was one of the genre’s superstars were the artists who 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 for her books.

Janelle Taylor has over 50 books with 60 million copies in print. She is best known for her Gray Eagle series and Lakota, Moondust, and Lakota Skies novels. Her books have been translated into 50 different languages.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor”

Covers of the Week #17

I enjoy playing the game of “I Spy” with my vintage book romance covers. Can you guess this week’s theme? Spot the common thread in the covers, and the first one to mention the correct answer in the comments wins the satisfaction that they were right! 🙂

For the week of Aug 2 to Aug 6, here are some contemporary and historical covers for you to look over and play “I Spy.”

Covers of the Week #16

island enchantress

Wouldn’t it be nice to get away to an island paradise? I thought we all could enjoy a tropical theme for these dog days of summer. To those folks experiencing mid-winter in the southern latitudes, imagine relaxing on the beach like these lovers posing for this week’s romance book covers! For the week of Monday, July 26 to Sunday, August 1, 2021, here are some sexy embraces on sultry beaches. Enjoy! clinch

What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?

red petaled flower

Research Into Category Romance

The history of series romances goes back roughly a century ago to 1909. Since the rise of paperback publishers, many romance lines have come and gone. Still standing is Mills & Boon and its parent company, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Bantam and Dell, no longer publish category romance, nor does Signet, Zebra, or Simon and Schuster. The latter formed Silhouette Books in 1980. However, Harlequin famously purchased that line, eventually folding it into its own.

Arrows From the Dark
Arrows From the Dark, Sophie Cole, Mills & Boon, 1909 (From Harper Collins Inside the Archives, courtesy of Reading University)

On our menu above, we have pages dedicated to romance authors, cover artists, and publishing houses. The history of publishing houses and imprints can be quite byzantine, as many companies were bought out by others, only to be resold again. In researching paperback romances of the past, I’ve come upon both an abundance and paucity of information, depending upon who or what I’m investigating. I want to do more in-depth research on each line, but often when I come upon fascinating tidbits of history, it leads to another line or publisher.

This is a rather tortuous way of saying I’m stuck.... Read more “What Category or Series Romance Do You Read?”