It’s time to appreciate category romance covers again! For this edition of Covers of the Week, we’re focusing on Harlequin publishing in the 1980s. Over the years, Harlequin romance covers utilized a stable of in-house artists. This made for a unified consistency in the covers. However, sometimes they seemed as if they all looked alike. Fortunately, there were artists talented enough to make their paintings stand out.
In the early days, covers were just painted, mostly with acrylic, but some illustrators used watercolor, like Will Davies. Eventually, photography and digital imaging would be implemented, but that was mostly later in the 1990s.
For the week of Monday, November 22, 2021, to Sunday, November 28, 2021 (boy, did November fly by, or what?), let’s look upon these passionate category romance covers from Harlequin.
We’ve talked about posting books on Instagram and becoming a #bookstagrammer. What happens when you build up a substantial library? You’ll want to show off your reading material. We’ve got some ideas on how to organize your books and bookshelves in a few eye-catching ways.
Bibliophiles love their sorting their collections. Now that being bookish is all the rage, it’s natural to want to share images of books with friends and followers. But it’s possible to get too caught up in the aesthetics and ignore practicality. This past week I read a fascinating article from https://inews.co.uk/ on this topic.
I support those who want to arrange their bookshelves in artful ways, but it can go too far. I had a dream before moving to a new flat this month in which I was arranging my shelf for so long that each book began disintegrating and I started to eat the pages. In the morning, I decided enough was enough and I vowed to change my ways… As I unpacked my moving boxes, I forced myself to put books on the shelves arbitrarily.
Our team at Sweet Savage Flame reads other kinds of books besides romance novels. We have a wide variety of tastes. Consequently, we’ll be asking our reviewers about their reading preferences. In this post, Introvert Reader talks about some of her favorite books, series, and authors outside of the romance genre.
Introvert Reader’s Favorite Books
Genres I Like to Read
Just as I’m a fan of old-school romance, I enjoy classic science fiction. Most of them are were published from about 1950 to the 1980s. Space Operas and weird slipstream sci-fi are my favorites. In addition, I enjoy potboilers, pulp, and trashy reads. Plus, I’m a big history buff. The Medieval period and anything about Spanish history are my preferred eras. Therefore, books that combine the two are my siren song. I also read humorous non-fiction, true-crime novels, philosophy, and, occasionally, a self-help book.
I have another blog dedicated to reviewing all types of books and romances published after 2000. So some of what I list here are reviewed on my IntrovertReader site.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (This is a tragic, beautiful tale about a woman who yearned for joy and love.)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Flaubert is a master wordsmith.
The Regency era is the most popular setting in historicals. From classic, traditional romances to longer, more sensual ones, the time period evokes a sense of manners and wittiness. We’ve reviewed but a few on this site, so to remedy that, let’s take a look at some of their dazzling covers.
For the week of Monday, November 15, to Sunday, November 21, 2021, our theme for the covers of the week is Regency romances. Enjoy!
At Sweet Savage Flame we love to look back to the past. After all, old-school romances are what we review! Now that we’re nearing the year’s end, there’s even more reason to look back at what came before us.
Let’s rewind all the way to…1991.
Back In Time 30 Years Ago
What was I doing back then? I was 14 on January 1, 1991. It was my confirmation year. In the Autumn of ’91, I started high school.
On tv I watched my soaps, Loving, All My Children, One Life to Live, then General Hospital in the daytime. Sitcoms to watch at night included Roseanne, Coach, The Golden Girls, and The Simpsons. On Nickelodeon, I watched Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats (I had little siblings), and the Canadian teen soap opera, Fifteen.
As far as music went, grunge was in full swing. As an avid metalhead I therefore avoided mainstream rock. Hits by bands like Color Me Badd, C+C Music Factory, TKA, and Mariah Carey had me dancing to the radio.
Debbie Macomber has been a standout romance novelist for an astonishing 40 years. She’s written women’s fiction, full-length contemporary, and category romance. Her work has been adapted for the small screen numerous times, for both movies and series. Over 200 million of her books have been out in print.
Because I don’t watch too much television or read many modern romance novels, I had no idea how huge Debbie Macomber was. I merely thought of her as another category writer who had crossed over to be successful in women’s fiction.
Debbie Macomber is a 13-times #1 New York Times bestselling author. Her books have spent over 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She is a publishing superstar.
Debbie Adler was born on October 22, 1948. She graduated from high school but did not attend any university.
Adler married Wayne Macomber just before her 20th birthday in September 1968. They had four children together. At first, Macomber never dreamed of becoming an author, as she had learning disabilities that hampered her ability to read and write.
We love giving attention to overlooked romance book cover artists. Like many fine artists working today, Leslie Pellegrino-Peck got her start in commercial art.
Leslie Anne Pellegrino was born in Buffalo, New York. She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art. In 1987 Leslie spent a year studying art in Italy at the Scuola di Lorenzo De Medici in Florence. She then apprenticed in Rome with renowned illustrator Alessandro Biffignandi.
Pellegrino-Peck began a freelance career in romance book cover illustration in 1988. She has enjoyed two decades of success painting in that genre, creating covers for St. Martin’s Press, Pinnacle, Zebra, Jove, and numerous other publishers. While still enjoying tremendous success in the publishing field, Pellegrino-Peck’s love for the beauty of people and animals has found its expression in her most recent oil paintings.
For the week of Monday, November 8, 2021, to Sunday, November 14, here are some fabulous Leslie Pellegrino-Peck romance covers to look over and admire. Enjoy!
At Sweet Savage Flame talked about tropes before. There are some plot devices and character types that never go out of style. We’ve looked around to seek the most popular tropes in Romancelandia that readers enjoy. Here are five that we think you’ll agree that make romance novels more exciting!
#1 Alpha Heroes
These heroes will do anything to protect their women. They are possessive, often jealous, and defend their ladies from all who seek to harm or take them from him. It’s important to emphasize a true alpha would never intentionally hurt his woman. Plus, he commands respect from other men through his innate strength. Alpha heroes were often found in bodice rippers and old-school category romances. Westerns and medieval historicals have plenty of male protagonists who would qualify, such as A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey. Why do we love Alphas? We love them because even if they can be overbearing, their hearts are in the right place, and when they commit, they commit for life!
There’s never been a better time to be a collector of vintage or old-school romance novels. With social media, you can show them off to your heart’s delight. TheInstagram app is a great place to do this. In addition, you can also upload images to Twitter and Tumblr.
We’ve referenced using Instagram before. Here are more tips on how to be part of the book micro-blogging community.
Just jump right in! Bookstagramming is easy and fun. Use the hashtags #bookstagram and #bookish and post pictures of books. That’s really all you have to do!
With the images taken from your phone, use hashtags to catch people’s attention. Be sure not to post just photos! It’s essential to include some relevant text about the book, author, publisher, etc. You want to encourage discussion.
#Hashtags To Use
The Instagram hashtags will keep you busy taking pictures of books from your personal library.
#romancestagram – Use this tag whenever you post anything romance-novel-related. Bookstagram is the general book-loving community. Romancestagram is for romance readers.
In the 1980s and 1990s, romance novels would experiment with cover designs. There was the standard passionate clinch, then collages, later the stepback, as well as solo poses for both hero and heroine, and–one of our favorites–the combination of a lone heroine and beneath that, a smaller image of an embracing couple. This always made for beautiful romance covers with so much to admire. Zebra romances would employ this style in their early days. Harlequin Historicals were famous for these as well.
For the week of Monday, November 1, 2021, to Sunday, November 7, please enjoy these lovely “pose and clinch” covers.
Romance novels tell stories that range from mundane to zany to melodramatic to tearjerkers and beyond. Regardless of the plots, one of the reasons the genre resonates with readers is its everlasting element of hope. Every romance novel must end on a positive, optimistic note (cliffhanger serials notwithstanding). Love is eternal, and no fiction does this theme more justice than romance. But romance novels are more than love stories. There are numerous life lessons we can learn from reading these beautiful books.
It’s a well-worn phrase, but it will be hard for others to care for you if you don’t care about yourself. If you abuse your body, you will attract abusers. Every person has intrinsic value due to their existence. Few of us are physically, mentally, psychologically, or morally perfect. What we have is the gift of being human. Humans are capable of love on a level unknown anywhere on earth. Focusing on the worst of humanity breeds self-loathing.
Behold the Halloween season! The beauty of autumn is transforming into a period of decay. The leaves on the trees have changed color–if they remain at all–on the dark, skeletal tree branches. A damp coldness lingers in the air. What is that strange light flickering in an attic window? Who–or what–is making those slow, creaking noises that emanate from an empty room?
Whether a haunted plantation in the humid American South, an ominous-looking old house in the North East, a decrepit manor in Cornwall, or a crumbling chateau in the mountains of Europe, Gothic romances are placed in contradictorily romantic yet scary settings. Gothic romances hold an important place in the annals of the romance genre, with dark brooding heroes, strong-willed heroines, and gorgeous covers illustrated by the master artists. For the week of Monday, October 25, 2021, culminating on Halloween Day, Sunday, October 31, 2021, let’s delight and take fright in these creepy Gothic romance covers!
Category lines are one of the cornerstones of the romance novel industry. We’ll delve deeper into each line as we document the genre’s past at Sweet Savage Flame. We’ll also be adding more pages to the site. As always, you can access pages via the top MENU. Please follow us via e-mail to stay informed of our latest updates.
What Is Category Romance?
Category romance, also known as series romance, differs from long-form, single edition romances in several ways. Most notably is the length. Category romances run 55,000 – 70,000 words. They range from novelette-length of 150 pages to a short novel of 300 pages. As their name implies, they are sorted into category lines and defined by tropes.
A trope is a common device in stories that (presumably) appeals to readers. It can be a type of plot, kind of character, theme, or setting writers employ because of familiarity. Some examples are Highland Scots, second chance at love, playboy billionaires, or arranged marriages.
All genre fiction use tropes in some way. Time travel, artificial intelligence, chosen one Messiahs, and space travel are a few one would find in Science Fiction. Tropes are not clichés. Clichés are ideas that are so overused they become trite.... Read more “A Brief Look at Category Romance”
It’s the spooky month of October, and Halloween is just around the corner. As a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Besides getting tons of free candy and dressing up in fantastic costumes, there was nothing better about that day than getting to watch horror movie marathons.
The romance genre has had its share of “spooky” stories. Paranormal romance became huge in the 1990s. Books would feature ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, time travel, and all kinds of magic. At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re getting into the Halloween spirit. For the week of Monday, October 18, 2021, to Sunday 24, let’s enjoy these paranormal romance covers featuring werewolves, psychics, vampires, and witches.
The history of Dorchester Publishing began before the company ever started. Leisure Books started its operations in 1957. At first, it was a mass-market paperback publisher specializing in horror and thrillers. In the company’s early years, it also published fantasy, science fiction, Westerns, and the Wildlife Treasury card series. When the historical bodice ripper revolution of the 1970s hit, Leisure entered the field as a notable publisher of romance novels.
Dorchester Publishing itself was founded in 1971. For a long time, Dorchester was the oldest independent mass-market publisher in the United States. Back in its early days, Dorchester was the original publisher of the Hard Case Crime line of pulp mysteries. They were successful publishers of mystery and horror.
In 1982, Dorchester Publishing purchased Leisure Books as an imprint, shifting the company’s focus away from fantasy and science fiction towards horror and romance. Leisure Books, like Kensington’s Zebra romances, Playboy Press, and Pinnacle books would eschew tight editing and quality control for salacious covers and plots. Authors like Karen Robards, Robin Lee Hatcher, Connie Mason would find their starts with Leisure.
Romance Imprints: Leisure, Love Spell, BMI
Dorchester added the Love Spell imprint in 1993 which focused on the hot trend of paranormal romances, including time travel and vampires.... Read more “Dorchester Publishing”
As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!” Oh well, at least I’m not in charge of safety at a nuclear power plant.
We are slowly converting articles to podcasts and YouTube videos. Unfortunately, I have found that it’s not as easy as simply speaking into a microphone and pressing record. I have to learn to modulate my voice better, stop mumbling at the ends of words, and quit inhaling through my mouth! And there’s no way I’m putting my big head on a screen (let alone allow people to see my messy computer room/ book room/ storage room/ den/ cat room), so I have to learn to get skilled in video making.
Since Halloween is just around the corner it’s time to take a look at the scary side of romance. No, not Gothics, although I promise we’ll get to more eventually.
The Harlequin Presents line was notorious for the cruelty some male protagonists could inflict upon their heroines. Some of these books are surprisingly well-written. Yet the horrific truth is that these heroes were villains.
Villainous heroes were popular forty years ago and they still are to this day. Why would anyone ever want to read romances where heroes are the bad guys? Why not? So long as we understand we’re reading fiction, at times it’s hypnotizing to take a peek at the darkness that lurks beneath the human surface. To witness what sadistic torments twisted love can create. And then thankfully close the pages on that misbegotten romantic nightmare.
At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re equally about the Sweet… and the Savage.
We’ve highlighted quite a few romance book covers here at Sweet Savage Flame. A common theme for many is to include animals, particularly horses, in the background to demonstrate passion and vitality. Some equines weren’t content to be cast as mere decoration, however. Neigh, these horses demanded a starring role with the couples engaged in their usual passionate clinches. (That sentence came off a bit odd, didn’t it?)
For the week of Monday, October 11, to Sunday, October 17, 2021, let’s give some love to the horses that make historical romance covers so much fun. (Now that sentence definitely sounded wrong!)
In the past, Sweet Savage Flame has focused on authors who used pseudonyms. We’ve posited reasons why romance writers would use pen names. One possibility given was the book was written by a man. As romance is often considered a woman’s topic, it’s understandable that male authors would favor an opposite-gendered moniker when publishing.
The realm of fictional violence has been historically masculine. Romance, on the other hand, has been consigned to the feminine sphere. Upon closer inspection, the matter is not so black-and-white. While females account for 82 to 85% of the romance genre readership, that still means many men enjoy love stories with happy endings.
Consider that romance is a billion-dollar industry, with a 30% market share of paperbacks alone. Romance lags (barely) behind only the suspense/thriller genre in total sales for adult fiction. In the United States, about 25 million romance books are sold annually. Despite being a primarily women’s domain, that means there are quite a few male romance readers. What about the writers?
It’s been a full six months that Sweet Savage Flame has been up and running. We started in early Spring, and now it’s Autumn, my favorite season! We’ve grown from a tiny website to a semi-respectable niche romance blog that has amassed over 18,000 views in that time. Thank you to our readers for being with us, for commenting, and for spreading the word about us!
Thank you to our beautiful bloggers, Mary Anne Landers, and Blue Falcon, for without their help, I would be tearing my hair out, doing this alone. Their reviews, posts, and thoughtful discussions have been a considerable part of this site’s growth.
And I also thank our friends on Facebook and Twitter who share this site with others and just love talking romance!
While we’re still a small blog, we’re showing up on Google searches and ranking on lists.
It’s time to appreciate category romance covers again! For this edition of Covers of the Week, we’re focusing on Harlequin publishing in the 1980s. Over the years, Harlequin romance covers utilized a […]