Old-School, retro, and vintage romance reads are my jam, baby! The good, the bad, the cheesy, and the sleazy! I have no shame about it; I love ’em!
An auto-didact, amateur historian, and reader of romance novels since 1990, I hope to offer a unique perspective on the genre.
As a blogger, you may know me by several names; here, I’m Jacqueline Diaz. I’m also the aspiring author of two works-in-progress, historical romances, The Savage Noble and What She Says with Her Eyes, which hopefully will be released in 2023.
Ron Lesser painted covers for various romance imprints and subgenres, and my favorites are his Harlequin and Silhouette designs.
Artist: Ron Lesser
No, Ron Lesser never painted over photographs to create his ultra-realistic covers! But one could be forgiven for thinking so.
The master artist was a prolific book illustrator from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. Lesser designed commissions for the top publishing houses of the day, including action-adventure, westerns, and romance.
Ron Lesser was born in New York City and studied at the Pratt Institute and then Art Students League of New York. He has won many awards from prestigious institutions such as the Society of Illustrators.
In the 1970s, Lesser made a name for himself by creating fabulous movie posters. He worked as a cover artist for about 25 years. He utilized white casein early on in his career before settling on oil. When digital art was introduced around 1992, it pushed him out of the field. Lesser maintained a commercial and fine art career, focusing on the American Civil War and portrait painting. He returned to the publishing world in the 2010s.
Ron Lesser painted covers for various romance imprints and subgenres, and my favorites are his Harlequin and Silhouette designs. The modern style of his art juxtaposed with vibrant images of couples in intimate embraces fit perfectly with contemporary romance.
As always, we publish our favorite Covers of the Week every Sunday. These are the posts for the month gone by. You can also access the past Covers of the Week via the main menu at the top of every page.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can be a fun day (or night). Here are 12 ways couples and 12 ways friends can appreciate this day dedicated to love together.
12 Romantic Valentines Day Ideas for Celebrating This Year
Celebrating Valentine’s Day with your partner is special, no matter what activities you engage in. But if you’re looking for something unique or are stumped for ideas, we’ve got a dozen off the tops of our heads that might thrill you!
Taste finger foods or desserts together.
Write love letters to each other and exchange them over a candlelit dinner.
Make a surprise scavenger hunt for your partner, with clues leading to a special gift or sexy surprise.
Plan a surprise weekend getaway to a romantic location, such as a cozy cabin in the mountains or a beachfront resort.
Have an erotic game night at home with your favorite board games or card games, only the loser of each round strips off a piece of their clothing!
Plan a surprise picnic in a picturesque location or indoors. Make clothing optional.
Recreate your first date. If you can’t make it to the same destination, recreate it at home with what ever’s handy!
12 Activities for Friends to Enjoy on Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to get together with friends and celebrate the day of love. Here are 12 fun activities that you and a friend can do together to make the holiday special.
Get ready for a movie marathon featuring romantic comedies or romantic films.
Put your cooking skills to the test and whip up something special together.
Take a day trip taking pictures of your hometown’s or nearby cities’ tourist attractions.
Pamper yourself and your bestie with an at-home spa day that includes pedicures, manicures, and facials.
Dine out at a fancy restaurant. You’re guaranteed a great night out with your BFF as your date.
Throw a crafting party and make some DIY gifts together, such as a scrapbook or photo album, to remember your special moments together.
Enjoy a game night with friends, whether tabletop games, RPGs, or video games!
Spend some quality time volunteering together in the community.
Learn a new hobby like dancing or cooking together.
Explore nature on a hike surrounded by tranquil scenery.
Go out for a night of dancing or karaoke. Be silly, go wild and have fun!
Sample different wines or cocktails for a memorable tasting experience!
How will you be spending this Valentine’s Day? Will your date be with your romantic partner or your best friend? Or will you be relaxing with yourself? Or is Valentine’s Day just another day on the calendar for you?
Theme: Moon On Covers (In Honor of the Lunar New Year)
This week’s covers feature moons glowing in the night, in honor of the Lunar New Year.
The Lunar New Year, known also as the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year, begins today Sunday, January 22, 2023. It is a traditional holiday celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian nations and cultures that marks the beginning of a new lunar calendar.
The name Spring Festival is due to the lunar calendar’s association with the Spring planting season. Farmers gave thanks for the harvest of the past year and to looked forward to the new agricultural season. The festival would involve cleaning homes, offerings to ancestors and gods, making new clothes and other preparations for the new year.
Today in Mongolia, China, Korea, Vietnam, and other East and Southeast Asian countries, citizens celebrate Lunar New Year. In nations such as the United States and Canada, people also observe the holiday.
The holiday is a time for families to come together and reflect upon the end of the old year and to wish for good luck and prosperity in the year to come. Festivities typically include exchanging gifts, parades, cultural performances including lion and dragon dances, and traditional foods.
The celebrations last for 15 days, and the most important day is New Year’s Eve.
The Lunar New Year and Phases of the Moon
The Lunar New Year is determined by the lunar calendar, which is based on the moon’s cycles. Specifically, it is based on the first new moon of the lunar calendar year. For that reason, the lunar calendar is different from the solar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the sun and is used in most Western countries.
The lunar calendar is divided into 12 months, each with 29 or 30 days. So to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the solar calendar, an extra month is added every 2 or 3 years. This means that the Lunar New Year can fall anywhere between late January and mid-February of the solar calendar.
The date of the New Lunar Year varies depending on the moon’s phases, but typically falls between January 21st and February 20th.
On this Lunar New Year, the Luna will be in its first phase after the new moon. The moon is close to the sun in the sky and should be mostly dark, except for the right edge.
Phase: Waxing Crescent; Illumination: 1%; Moon Age: 0.74 days Moon Distance: 363,541.36 km Sun Distance: 147,238,179.62 km
The Lunar New Year is time to start anew, both symbolically and literally.
For this edition of Covers of the Week for Monday, January 23, 2023, to Sunday, January 29 we’re showing off some of our favorite romance covers with moons in the night sky in honor of the Lunar New Year.
What is the average romance reader like? Just who, exactly, reads romance? What is the total number of romance novels sold each year? And what are the most popular best-selling “romance novels” of all time? All these questions have been answered, and now we have even more questions about the romance genre.
We’re posting this fascinating article from the Wordsrated website written by Dimitrije Curcic. It has over forty statistics on the current state of the genre. There’s a lot of food for thought here, and certain issues that we’ll address in upcoming articles.
Some things to note are that romance readers consume books voraciously, with over 78% completing at least one book a month (I’d say most romance fans read greater than just 12 books annually).
The vast majority read on their Kindles, e-readers, and phones, as opposed to “dead-tree” books.
Romance readers are getting overwhelmingly getting younger each decade. 65% of them have read the genre for fewer than twenty years. That certainly explains why old-school romance isn’t held in high regard by most genre aficionados. When blogs and book reviewers publish their lists of “The Best Romance Books…” invariably, most romances are recent, having been published no more than 15 years ago. Although a rare Lisa Kleypas, Julie Garwood, or Judith McNaught will pop up every now and then. Not to mention Pride and Prejudice!
Did you know today, January 21st, 2023 is National Hugging Day? Sweet Savage Flame is spreading the love by sending virtual hugs to all. We will delve into this “holiday” and discuss the many benefits hugging provides for emotional, mental, and physical health.
Plus, we have tips on how to celebrate and spread love through hugs. And, of course, some gorgeous romance covers featuring couples with their arms wrapped around one another.
National Hugging Day is all about sharing love and affection with hugs. It’s a day to remind us of the importance of human contact in our lives and the power it has to make us feel connected, loved, and supported.
Whether you’re looking for feel-good vibes or romantic ideas for celebrating this special day, we have some special ideas in store. So grab your partner (or stuffed animal), get ready to give out some big hugs, and let’s get started!
Benefits Of Hugs For Mental And Physical Health
A hearty embrace is one of the best and simplest ways to show your loved ones that you appreciate and care for them. Not only does it warm hearts with its act of love, but it also has a range of mental and physical health benefits.
Studies have shown that hugging can relieve stress, reduce depression, and boost the immune system. Hugs release oxytocin, a hormone that helps build trust in relationships and can help lower blood pressure levels.
Go ahead; give someone you love a big hug today! You never know how much it may benefit their mental and physical health down the road.
Tips To Celebrate National Hugging Day
National Hugging Day is a special day to show some love and appreciation for the people around us. Celebrating this “holiday” is easy.
We have some tips on how you can spread love and make it an extra special one.
Give hugs to your friends and family members, or even acquaintances.
Invite friends, neighbors, and family over for a group hug!
Spend time with someone who needs a hug.
Host an unexpected hugging party at your home or workplace and invite everyone who could use a good hug.
Share pictures with loving messages on social media platforms to spread positivity.
Remember that even small gestures like giving someone a hug can make all the difference in their day!
Romance Novels and Hug Day
For this National Hugging Day, why not show the special people in your life how much you love them with a hug and a good romance book? Gift a friend a special book you know they’ll enjoy.
Reading is one of the best ways to bond with those close to us, so why not give them a cozy hug while sharing an exciting story of love, adventure, and heartfelt moments?
Romance novels take us on an emotional journey full of passion, connection, and understanding that can both bring us closer to our loved ones and make us feel more connected with ourselves.
Nothing quite beats the combination of loving embraces and romantic stories to bring joy into our lives!
Ways To Spread Love Through Hugs On National Hugging Day
Let’s take a moment to spread love and joy through the simplest of gestures. A close embrace can bring an instant feeling of warmth and comfort to the person receiving it. It’s the perfect way to show someone that you care.
Whether it’s with your friends and family or even strangers in the street (we don’t really recommend that last one; we kept it in to emphasize a point), a hug can brighten up anyone’s day.
Be sure to share the love with plenty of squeezes; after all, it’s National Hugging Day!
The Clinches With Hugs
Here are a few covers we thought we’d share since we can’t give our readers genuine hugs.
Each couple (in one case, a couple) has a unique form of embracing. What do you think is going on in their heads?
Final Words on Hugging Day
National Hugging Day is the perfect occasion to show love and appreciation for the special people in our lives.
Beyond biology, it’s also a powerful way to connect with others on an emotional level. Hugs can be romantic, friendly, caring, or comforting.
With a simple hug, we can send positive vibes and emotions of closeness that are indescribable.
At Sweet Savage Flame, we like to get silly about things and celebrate the little pleasures in life. National Hugging Day reminds us that even small gestures like a hug can have the potential to spread love, joy, and happiness all around us!
What do you think o this “holiday”? Did you hug someone special today?
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!
Don Case is an artist whose works I have seen on the cover of historical and regency romances since I began reading the genre 33 years ago.
Lamentably, I have never been able to uncover any information about this talented illustrator. In fact, the only hits I got on him during a web search directed me to my Pinterest page of Case’s covers.
His presence in the industry goes back to the mid-1980s. Publishers such as Warner Books, Simon & Schuster‘s Pocket Books Division, Berkeley/ Jove’s Charter imprint, and Kensington’s Zebra imprint have displayed Case’s cover illustrations.
His style is bright and colorful. It appears Case used a spray technique in some of his early covers (similar to George A. Bush). By the 1990s, like many of his Zebra colleagues, such as Franco Accornero and Jon Paul Ferrara, he incorporated digital methods to create romance covers.
Don Case the artist remains a mystery, but his lovely artwork isn’t forgotten. For the week of Monday, January 16, 2023, to Sunday, January 22, 2023, this Covers of the Week shows off four covers designed by Donald Case.
With all the variety of poses for romance covers, the rarest to spot is the woman on top of the hero. Clinch covers show couples embracing in various positions. Standing up, laying down, in bed, on the floor, on the seashore… Every situation imaginable has been pictured on the covers of romance books.
But seeing the heroine in a dominant position or laying on top of the hero is hard to find. Believe us, we searched and searched.
And indeed, we were fortunate to come upon a selection of covers where the exception is the rule.
The heroines in these romances are running the show! For the week of Monday, January 9, 2023, to Sunday, January 15, 2023, this Covers of the Week displays an assortment of covers featuring the women laying on top of their heroes.
Women on Top Covers (from Left to Right, Top to Bottom)
Always, Jo Morrison, Harlequin, 1990,cover artist TBD
What do you think of this week’s theme of women on top? Do any of the covers stand out to you as a favorite? Have a recommendation for a future Covers of the Week theme? Let us know, and we’ll try it out.
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.
The old year is over, and a new year has begun. We’re excited about the fun stuff we have coming up for this blog! Sweet Savage Flame and lovers of retro-romance books have lots to look forward to in 2023.
In the meantime, let’s look back at our highest-ranking articles and our five star reads from 2022.
This articles lists some of the best romance cover artists of all time. It is limited to historical romance illustrators who primarily worked in the last third of the 20th century, however. These 21 entries provide a starting point for the novice learner.
In the 1990s and the 2000s, Rob Ashton was, for a while, the new King of romance cover models after Fabio officially retired from modeling for romance covers. Our article covering his life and career was one of the more popular posts of 2022.
Rob Ashton was a stunning figure of a man at six feet tall and 200 lbs. with long black hair and hazel-green eyes. He was of Cherokee Indian, English, and Irish descent, a beautiful combination. Sadly, Ashton’s career and life ended too soon.
We’ll be highlighting the careers of more cover models in 2023.
In another post that was a big hit, Sweet Savage Flame covered some of the hardest-to-find and most expensive romance novels. Demand for these rare books is always in flux, affecting asking prices, so a new article about the used-paperback market is on the horizon.
As for historical romances, fortunately we read plenty of those in 2022. We don’t DNF, so there were several clunkers. Mostly we had a pleasant year of nostalgic reads. There were a dozen 5-star reviews from our staff–which is considerable, since we’re nitpicky!
One standout from 2022 is having read the 1919 classic The Sheikby Edith Maude Hull. We reviewed this seminal romance in April and cannot give it enough praise. Yes, the modern -day reader may label it “problematic” or “toxic,” but we got a kick out of it. It’s a great romance in our eyes.
The Sheik is the grandmother of the bodice ripper. If not for the closed-door bedroom scenes, this book would have fit right in with the romances penned in the 1970s.
In 1921, the silent film adaptation of the novel starring Agnes Ayres came out. The Sheik catapulted Rudolph Valentino’s career into movie stardom.
We’re looking forward to looking back in time in 2023. Expect plenty more reviews for old-school romance novel, plus articles and best-of-lists.
How do you think we did in 2022? What would you like to see in 2023?
As always, please drop a comment and let’s talk romance.
Sweet Savage Flame is all about loving old-school romance novels. You know, those trashy, campy sex romps your mother, grandmother, or older uncle read? Perhaps you might have read one or two yourself!
From vintage books to bodice rippers and from epic historicals to short-length category romances, we unashamedly love them all! The plots were sometimes shocking, even not politically correct. These are books that had their day, and we look back at the past with fondness, not scorn.
Besides, we can’t get enough of retro-romance covers! Many talented artists illustrated gorgeous clinch images, so we show off stunning artwork every Sunday with our Covers of the Week feature.
Easy access to the latest Sweet Savage Flame reviews of retro-romance novels is available below for your convenience.
Sweet Savage Flame cherishes the old-school era of the romance genre. Specifically, our focus is on books published from 1972–the year Avon released Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower–to the beginnings of the 21st century.
We’re serious about documenting the history of modern English-language romance novels. In addition, we’re happy to provide a wide variety of readers’ perspectives.
At Sweet Savage Flame we discuss everything about the authors (including our personal favorites), the publishers, and the cover artists who made it all happen. Our blog explores a range of genre-relevant topics. Best of all, we review lots of retro-reads from crazy bodice rippers to sweet vintage romances.
Do you provide trigger warnings for off-putting subjects?
The books we review are not always politically correct. Many readers born 30 or 20 years may be shocked by what we read and find entertaining. In some extreme cases, we do add “content” alerts. However, this is rare.
We try to add tags that identify tropes or plot points of the reviews near the bottom of the page.
Sweet Savage Flame is not a site for young children, so it’s up to the reader to determine if they want to read any of our reviews.
Do your reviews contain spoilers?
Short answer: Yes. Sometimes a book needs to be spoiled to properly review it. Plus, as these are older works of fiction, not too many sites discuss them, so we like to go as in-depth as possible.
We provide spoiler warnings for every review, whether “spoiler-free,” “mild spoilers,” or a “full spoiler alert.”
Does Sweet Savage Flame review new books or ARCS?
We don’t accept ARCs as we’re not a book blog for new books.
Since we focus on romance novels published up to around 2000, the books reviewed here have been published, for decades, are often out-of-print, and are copies we already own.
Do you accept guest reviewers or bloggers?
Yes! Sweet Savage Flame is always looking for new voices to express their thoughts on old-school and vintage romance.
If you’d like to guest blog or even review/ post on a regular basis, we’d be more than willing to work with you.
All we ask is that you provide your own books and limit your reviews to books published from 1970 to 2000–although we do accept some classic romances or post-World War II vintage reads and books up to 2004.
Please see our CONTACT page and submit a comment. We’ll be in touch
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These are the articles, quizzes, lists, puzzles, and other romance or book-related blog posts we’ve written or reposted last month.
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Covers of the Week Posted
As always, we publish our favorite Covers of the Week every Sunday. These are the posts for the month gone by. You can also access the past Covers of the Week via the main menu at the top of every page.
What better way to celebrate the New Year than with fireworks–on romance covers, that is! 2022 is over and it’s a New Year with 2023. It’s a time to look back and forward. To reflect upon the past and look to future. We’re thankful for our readers and are happy to note that some exciting events in store for 2023!
To celebrate the the arrival of 2023 our first edition of Covers of the Week for the new year starting Monday January 2, 2023 to Sunday January 9 highlights firework explosions. Sweet Savage Flame wishes you all the best in 2023!
Old school romance covers had a wide variety of settings, from indoor to outdoors and in every season. Winter is the time to cuddle close to the one you love. Last week was the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, but it was also Christmas, so we didn’t have a chance to welcome in the winter season.
We’ve chosen to show off four romance covers with snow. These winter backgrounds are the perfect settings for couples trying to stay warm with the heat of their passion.
For the week of Monday December 26, to Sunday, December 1, 2023 Sweet Savage Flame‘s final edition of our Covers of the Weekfor 2022, we have romance covers with snowy winterscape scenes. We’ll see you in 2023!
Artist James Griffin is a fine artist who has been illustrating romance covers since the 1970s. He has painted covers for almost every major romance publisher, getting his big start with Fawcett. He famously painted many stunning covers for Jennifer Blake
His career in romance continued well into the 2010s and as he moved from painting in oils to using digital technology.
James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.
His “classic” era artwork is dramatic with windswept hair and passionate embraces. James Griffin’s graceful aesthetic resulted in romance covers that emotionally resonated with readers.
For the week of Monday, December 12, 2022, to Sunday, December 18, 2022, our Covers of the Week focuses on the early romance covers painted by artist James Griffin.
There’s something quite dashing about a hero who wears a cloak or a cape that flows in the wind. He doesn’t need to be a vampire to rock the look, as the garment is a staple for noblemen in Historical romances.
Legend says Sir Walter Raleigh laid his cloak down on the wet grounds so his beloved Queen Elizabeth would not be forced to walk in the mud.
Often in romance novels, during lovemaking scenes set outdoors, the hero would spread his cape on the ground, at which point he and the heroine would make love.
These caped crusader heroes are our focus for our Covers of the Week for Monday, December 12, 2022, to Sunday, December 18, 2022. Books featuring handsome men wearing cloaks are always eye-catching, and we hope you enjoy these selections.