Author Archives

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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?”

Covers of the Week #15

Bold Destiny

The Duillo family was filled with artistic talent. There was John Duillo, the great pulp cover artist. Of course, his wife Elaine was a pioneer for women in the field. She not only painted pulp covers but went on to become the “Queen of Romance Covers.” However, did you know their daughter, Melissa Duillo Gallo, was a talented artist as well?

In the 1980s – 1990s, Melissa, who used the surname Gallo after her marriage, was a prolific historical romance cover artist, creating works for publishers such as Avon, Dell, Warner, Zebra, and more. While she and her mother no longer illustrate romance covers, Melissa is still creating art as a talented painter. Melissa Gallo Paints is where you can get access to her current work. I also have a dedicated Pinterest page to her romance covers here.

For a long time, I used to get Elaine and Melissa’s artwork confused, unintentionally mislabelling one of the books below as Elaine’s! Now I can spot the differences between mom’s and her daughter’s work. For one thing, Melissa preferred her models to wear more clothes, and also, she was more conservative with the use of eyeshadow, especially for the heroes! Both ladies, Duillo, collaborated with supermodel Fabio many times.... Read more “Covers of the Week #15”

Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan

Penny Jordan pic
Penny Jordan pic
“Penny Jordan” (real name Penny Jones-Halsall)

Penny Jordan was an immensely popular author for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin. She wrote romantic love stories that readers have enjoyed for 40 years. Penny Jordan was not her real identity but one of her many pseudonyms. Let’s take a look back at the career of this talented author.

Life Before Writing

Born on November 24, 1946, Penelope “Penny” Jones came into the world in a nursing home in Preston, Lancashire, England. Like many future writers, Penny had a vivid imagination as a child and was an active reader. Starting at age 10 or 11, her mother introduced Penny to the romantic serials in the Woman’s Weekly magazines. She became hooked on reading Mills & Boon and was a devoted fan. In those days, private lending libraries were the only source to obtain those books. Not until years later would the books go on sale in shops so Penny could have her keep of them.

She had met the love of her life, Steve Halsall, as a teenager, whom she married after her graduation. Steve was supportive of Penny’s burgeoning ambitions to write and purchased a typewriter for her to create romantic fiction.

Enter Caroline Courtney, Penny Jordan, and Anne Groves

Penny entered a competition run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), which brought her to the attention of an agent, and in 1979 she published Duchess in Disguise, the first of her 25 Regency romances written under the name Caroline Courtney.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Penny Jordan”

Updates #7

white orange and green floral bouquet decor
Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

There are some brief points to address here about our vintage romance book blog. And yes, some of this is bragging. I’m so happy at the growth of Sweet Savage Flame and the little community we’re building here, so I hope you’ll share in my joy!

Welcome Mary Anne

We have a new reviewer Mary Anne Landers, aka “Arkansasannie.” Not only are her reviews fun to read, but she also brings with her information regarding vintage category romances that are outside my usual scope. I’ve learned quite a bit from her in the past few weeks and hope to learn even more.

Mary Anne’s Category Romance reviews are already the most viewed ones on this site, so let’s give her a hand! That tells me that people who come to this blog want reviews on old-school books they can’t find anywhere else, and we’re listening! I have to get my old Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supremes out of storage and review them!

Remember, Mary Anne is also an up-and-coming author, so you might want to follow her on her Facebook page Mary Anne Landers Facebook, for her latest updates! With her unique perspective on category romances and Blue Falcon’s in-depth reviews on Historicals, I’m very proud of our little group here.... Read more “Updates #7”

The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?

love cherish me

When you read a romance novel, what are you reading it for? The romance? The heroine’s journey? The hunky hero? Or something else entirely?

The Placeholder Reader

Recently, I came upon a quote by author Laura Kinsale. Rather than add it to the Kathleen E. Woodiwiss page, I thought it would make for a good conversation piece. In her essay “The Androgynous Reader” in Jayne Ann Krentz’ book, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, Kinsale cites the heroine of K.E.W.’s Shanna as proof that the average romance reader does not identify with the heroine, but rather, s/he imagines her as a placeholder for themselves to be with the hero, for:

“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”

I agree and disagree with Kinsale’s assessment. As a woman, I do not internalize a foolish heroine’s poor decision-making. When it comes to reading romance, unless feminism is an explicit theme of the book, that topic doesn’t enter in how I judge the story.

... Read more “The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?”

Covers of the Week #14

My Lord Monleigh

For the week starting Monday, July 12 to Sunday, July, 18, I thought some Historical Highland romance novels or Scottish-themed covers would be a bonny sight for your eyes to enjoy.

Where to Find Vintage Books: A Collector’s Dilemma

flesh and the devil hardcover

Where to Find Old School Romance Novels

So you found your dearly-departed grandma’s stash of vintage romance novels hidden in the attic and read them. Despite their flaws, the books gave you a thrill unlike no other. Now you want to read more old-school romance! Although, you’re not sure where to find them. They’re not sold at your local Barnes and Noble, and they don’t rank on Amazon’s best-seller lists.

Fortunately, we here at SweetSavageFlame.com are book hoarders—er, collectors, and can help you with your search! We also looked to some friends for advice. Of great help to us were the Vintage Paperback Romance Novels group on Facebook, run by knowledgeable bibliophile @robimes from robimes.blogspot.com and @ArtoftheClinch from Twitter, who tweets out a couple of clinch covers from the 1980s and 1990s every day.

@ArtoftheClinch divides the areas where to search for paperbacks into two categories: “target-rich” Wild Sites, which she states are “Places where I can physically touch the books, and the vendor hasn’t priced them at maximum markup” and Non-Wild Sites, which are essentially online sites.... Read more “Where to Find Vintage Books: A Collector’s Dilemma”

Covers of the Week #13

Smuggler's Lady

For the week of July 5 to July 11, here are a few Walter Popp romance covers to appreciate. Walter Popp was a fantastic artist, part of the original pantheon of pulp genre masters who would later go on to create covers for Gothic, Regency, Historical romances, including bodice rippers and epics. He was especially prolific for Zebra and Warner Books. In the latter part of his career, he would collaborate with his wife Marie to create beautiful romantic covers that inspire joy and passion.

Covers of the Week #12

I’ve been a bit behind things this past week so I haven’t been focusing on the site as I should have. So to make up for it, I’ve chosen a selection of covers by good artists gone bad. These covers have made me smile, laugh, or just raise my eyebrows and wonder what they were thinking. For the week of June 28 to July 4 2021, enjoy this small sample of silly or awful looking covers from romances from four different artists.

#1 They’re getting it on at the docks, her hair is in the water, but at least she knows to hold on to that parasol for sun protection. Priorities. (Wild Magnolia, Wanda Owen, Zebra, 1992, Pino cover art)

#2 – Is it just me or does that poor cat look like an experiment from “The Island of Dr. Moreau”? Is it supposed to be a Scottish wildcat or a Lynx? Either way, it looks so sad. Put the poor dear out of his misery! (Wildcat Tamed, Mary Wibberley, Harlequin, 1977, cover artist Don Berco)

#3 – This infamous cover is notable for the three-armed heroine, one hand on the ground, the other at her side, and the last holding the hero’s arm.... Read more “Covers of the Week #12”

Covers of the Week #11

city girls need not apply

Morgan Kane is an artist whose book covers range from the pulpy paperback era of the early 1970s to the bodice ripper heyday to series and contemporary romances to Westerns to the big name romance authors of the 1980s and 1990s. A true Renaissance man, his artwork was as varied as his many talents, such as photography, illustrating, ice-skating, and hypnotism! For the week of June 21 to June 27, 2021, enjoy this small sample of Morgan Kane romance covers from multiple categories.

Happy Summer Solstice, or just June Solstice for you folks in the Southern Hemisphere of the world!

Updates #6

garden secret
stack of books near magnolia flower on table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

When I started this site three months ago, I envisioned a small blog where I’d talk about historical romance novels written in the last quarter of the 20th century and post an occasional vintage review. Several weeks in, I decided to broaden the scope to include “contemporary” romances published during that era, which opened huge avenues to discovery. For example, authors whom I’d known solely as historical or contemporary writers excelled in multiple genres. Or the history of one paperback publishing house branches out and takes root into one another, making it difficult to define who published what. More importantly, what I thought would be an easy task turned into a major endeavor: learning SEO, CSS, maneuvering plugins, trying to find a slick-looking template that wouldn’t slow the site to a crawl…

So, blogging.

Jacqueline Diaz Romance

Life has a way of catching up to all of us eventually, and one’s health is part of that. In my family recently, we have had a couple of close calls with relatives. I had a bad spell around Mother’s Day and have just been recovering from another set of ailments that hit me hard early last week.... Read more “Updates #6”

Pet Peeves and Deal Breakers in Romance

crop person showing broken paper heart
Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Each person has their own unique limit of what they can or cannot tolerate in fiction. Although it has an absolute requirement for a happy ending, the romance genre may contain deal-breakers for readers looking for a pleasurable experience that takes them away from reality for a few hours.

Our Pet Peeves

Some of our negative book reviews at Sweet Savage Flame have pointed ti personal pet peeves as reasons why we couldn’t enjoy our reading experiences.

In Nadine Crenshaw’s Captive Melody, there were two negative tropes that were deal breakers for Blue Falcon. First, a captive who experiences Stockholm Syndrome for her captor. Second, the hero seeking to inflict vengeance upon an innocent party. There are cruelties that characters experience that cannot be offset by skillful writing or a conveniently happy ending.

As I’ve stated before, as in Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble: I can’t enjoy a romance where the hero is mourning the death of a previous beloved. While I prefer a heroine to be the hero’s only love, I can accept a rival for his affections, so long as she is alive. A flesh and blood woman will always pale to the perfection of a saintly ghost.... Read more “Pet Peeves and Deal Breakers in Romance”

Covers of the Week #8

Gentle Rogue

“A bird, bird, bird, b-bird is the word!” For the week of May 31 to June 6, can you spy the birds on these Elaine Duillo and John Ennis illustrated historical romance novel covers? Enjoy!

Link-O-Rama #2: Blogs, Sites, Podcasts & More

art artistic blank page book

All these links will be added to the Links menu above.

Sites:

Also, check out his Guide to Category Romance Series 1965-1989. The ~1970-2000 era in romance novels we focus on overlaps with this guide, so it’s a valuable reference for category romance.

Podcast:

This outrageous podcast, The Bodice Tipplers, reviews romances from all eras and genres:

Tumblr:

Look for beautiful Harlequin covers at: Vintage Harlequin Romance Cover Art

Twitter:

Every day @ArtOfTheClinch tweets out a gorgeous clinch cover.

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