These authors have been successful in the romance genre for 25, 30, or even 40 years. Their contributions to the industry are numerous. These women have won many awards and sold tens of millions of books.
Lisa Kleypas burst onto the scene in September 1987 with her Onyx release, Where Passion Leads. She is a Wellesley College graduate and former beauty pageant queen (Miss Massachusetts). Kleypas was only 21 when she signed her first book deal. Thirty-five years later, she’s perhaps historical romance’s most famous author. Kleypas has published 49 novels and short stories. She has dabbled in contemporary romance. But historicals are where she has her biggest fans. Her books have won various awards for distinction. Kleypas is both a USA Today and NY Times best-selling author. Her most recent outing, Devil in Disguise, came out in August 2021.
One of Harlequin’s most prominent authors is Lynne Graham, who hails from Northern Ireland. Mills & Boon published her first book, Bittersweet Passion, in 1987. It wasn’t until she began writing Harlequin Presents a couple of years later that Graham would gain huge acclaim. Her first HP was The Veranchetti Marriage. Her passionate romances about Greek, Italian, Hispanic, and Mediterranean heroes have captured millions of fans.... Read more “10 Vintage Romance Authors Relevant Today”
Ooh boy, where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre, the modern romance novel. Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper epic was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation.
Sweet Savage Love showed that women could have passionate sex with the hero outside of marriage and have passionate sex with men besides the hero. Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the main settings for Sweet Savage Love. This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.
Biographical information for Mrs. Edwards is fairly limited. She says on the back cover of her book Savage Surrender that she became interested in writing romance novels after reading books her friends gave her.
Mrs. Edwards’s first book, Portrait of Desire, a traditional historical romance, was published by Kensington’s Zebra imprint in June 1982.
Over the course of the next 27 years, Mrs. Edwards would author 108 books in total, which were published by four different publishing houses: Dorchester, Harlequin, Kensington, and Signet. In total, Mrs. Edwards wrote:
3 novellas appearing in anthologies.
Chippewa: 5 books.
Dreamcatcher Indian: 3 books.
Savage: 35 books.
Savage Secrets: 12 books.
Wild Arizona: 6 books.
Wild Tribes: 4 books. (Note: the 6 Wild Arizona and two of the Wild Tribes books are published under two different names by two different publishers.)
Approximately 41 standalone books. (It was hard to count them all).
Oh boy, when I read “the heroine in pursuit plot” synopsis for this Harlequin Presents, was I ever excited to read it. Heroines who are determined to get their men are my favorite kinds! Alas, when the object of said pursuit is a mean arsehole, the chase isn’t worth it. Still, Hard to Get by Carole Mortimer was a wild, emotional whirlwind. With a more charismatic hero, I could have loved this as opposed to liking it.
As with so many Presents, this is an utter trainwreck, so you can’t look away.
Lara Sinclair, our heroine, is beautiful, rich, vain, and spoiled–the very opposite of a heroine. She’s a daddy’s little girl type. Lara’s used to getting what she wants with ease. All the boys want her. She flirts and trifles with their hearts, never giving what she knows is so easy to get.
Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.
Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.
Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Guilty Love by Charlotte Lamb”
For the Love of Sara isn’t one of Anne Mather’s bests. It features a rather unlikeable hero, which is par for the course for Mather. He’s named, pompously enough, Joel Kingdom. It doesn’t help that he’s a functioning alcoholic who keeps cans of beer in his glove compartment to help him deal with stress.
Plus, Joel has horrible fashion sense. He’s one of those cheroot-smoking males so prevalent in Mather’s books. He shows off his vintage 70’s wardrobe, wears silk shirts open down to his waist, revealing his hairy, medallioned chest. He decks out in maroon velvet tuxedos, lots of tight-fitting corduroy bell-bottoms, and even a sexy matching blue suede suit.
Joel Kingdom is a successful artist from a highborn, wealthy family. His father disowned him when he refused to go into the family banking business.
Jennifer Wilde, aka Mr. Thomas E. Huff, wrote a few bodice rippers before writing romances that weren’t bodice rippers but not quite traditional romances either.
Angel In Scarlet isn’t a bodice ripper. It’s a Georgian-Era chick-lit. This is a hard one to categorize. It’s not just a romance, but more of a heroine’s journey through life and her relationships with several men she meets along the way.
Angel in Scarlet begins when our heroine Angela Howard is a child. At twelve years old, she meets Hugh, the man who will haunt her for her entire life. They have a strange first meeting: she’s a peeping Tom trying to catch an eyeful of some action, when Hugh, who’s 16, discovers her then gives her a spanking as a discipline!
Angela grows up with her cruel sisters and mother. Poor Angie, she’s so unattractive with her rich, chestnut hair, violet-gray eyes, and enormous boobies. Who would ever love her?
Over 22 years and under two different publishers, Johanna Lindsey wrote 12 romances about the Malory & Anderson clans. These books were massive hits with her many fans, with some readers claiming them as favorites, especially Gentle Rogue. Her novel, The Present, is moderately short at just over 300 pages. It tells two parallel love stories set in different eras in England, portraying the Malory clan in the past and the “present.” No matter how time changes, the love lives of the family remain the same.
It is Christmas time. The Malory’s–wives, husbands, and children–assemble at Haverston, the family patriarch’s estate. Lord Jason Malory is a Marquis and father to Derek, the hero from Say You Love Me. Readers familiar with that novel should know the dark family secret. Derek is not a child of the legitimate union between his father and his wife. Jason had an affair with a mysterious woman and Derek was the result of that. The mystery woman is Jason’s long-time maid, Molly.
Along with Charlotte Lamb, Miranda Lee was my favorite writer from the Harlequin Presents line. Sadly, she passed away on November 13, 2021. She was 76. Lee wrote sensually charged romances that promoted the modern woman in all her forms.
An Author From Down Under
Miranda Lee, whose real first name was Maureen, was born in 1945 in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. She was the youngest of four children. Her older sister, Wendy, was also a successful writer for Harlequin under the pseudonym Emma Darcy. Wendy Brennan predeceased her sibling in 2020.
Lee’s father was a country school teacher and sportsman. Her mother was a dressmaker. At age 10, her father transferred to Gosford with the family. They moved to another rural town on the coast, much closer to the bustling Sydney metropolis.
Lee attended a convent school. She studied the cello and briefly pursued a career in classical music. Following that, she moved to Sydney, where she studied computer tech. Lee worked as a programmer before marrying her dear husband, Tony Lee. Together, they had three daughters. The family lived happily on a few acres of land with goats, horses, and greyhound dogs.
Before I discuss this romance, let me address the unfortunate cover. I don’t care how awesome that free book bag was! The editors at Harlequin dropped the ball with this one! That vast yellow oval covers the main couple’s faces. You can’t see the heroine, the hero, or that this was Emma Darcy‘s 60th book.
Simply titled Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy’s category romance foray into the holidays may have you near tears. It may also have you wishing some evil villains get their well-deserved comeuppance. This book throws almost every trope at you but the metaphorical kitchen sink. It’s an angst-filled yet ultimately very happy Christmas Harlequin Presents.
Many years ago, Meredith or Merry (Get it? Merry as in Merry Christmas?) Palmer had a summer romance with college student Nick Hamilton. Merry lied about her age, as she was technically a minor. She and Nick fell into what Meredith believed was true love. But Merry’s wicked stepmother caught wind of the relationship and informed the 21-year-old Nick he was dating a 16-year-old.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Merry Christmas by Emma Darcy”
He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.
I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.
Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.
I’ve read about half of the romances Deana James published and I must say Crimson Obsession is probably my least favorite of her works. It’s not a terrible romance, not at all. It simply pales in comparison to her other books. Due to my high expectations of James’ writing, Crimson Obsession was a bit of a disappointment, although if penned by another author, I daresay I might not have been so critical.
The Revenge Based Plot
It’s Victorian-era England and Cassandra MacDaermond is on a mission of revenge. She’s a beautiful red-haired orphan left penniless. Her father died after losing the family fortune by gambling. Cassandra blames Edward Sandron, owner of a gaming hall, for this. She’s determined to see Sandron pay for taking advantage of an elderly man. Cassandra disguises herself as an old, plump maid and gains employment in Sandron’s household.
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.
I adore a love story where one partner is restrained and uptight and the other is open and free-spirited. Rainy Day Kisses, a Harlequin Romance by Debbie Macomber, depicts those elements perfectly. It’s about a woman who has no time for frills and silly moments enjoying life. She’s a no-nonsense businesswoman. Then she butts head with her neighbor, a laid-back kind of guy who loves flying kites.
Susannah Simmons is the stereotypical career-woman with no time for romance. She has a five-year plan to rise to the top of her field. While she focuses on climbing up the corporate ladder to VP status, her family members are getting married and having babies.
She has zero patience time for neighbor Nate Townsend. The man bakes cookies, for goodness sake! Nate loves Seattle Mariners ball games. He’s all about fun and relaxing. His happy-go-lucky demeanor irritates Susannah to no end. Does the man even have a job?
Charlotte Lamb’s Stranger in the Night deals with a sensitive topic she’s approached several times: rape. No, it does not employ the controversial trope of “dubious consent” found in many Harlequins from the 1970s and 1980s. This is a healing love story about a traumatic assault that upended a woman’s life and almost destroyed her ability to find a romantic relationship.
On the surface, the set-up of Stranger in the Night might share some commonalities with Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, which had an actual love triangle plot. Here, the heroine Clare is living a good life as a successful actress. She has a male friend Macey, a writer and producer whom she keeps at bay, however much he adores her.
The book opens with the heroine of the book, Carrie Sue Stover, trying to outrun her past (Carrie Sue’s brother, Darby, is the leader of an outlaw gang, which she also ran with). Tired of looking over her shoulder and worrying about being arrested, jailed, or worse, Carrie Sue decides to take on the persona of Carolyn Sarah Starns, a schoolteacher on her way to Tucson, Arizona. (The real Carolyn was killed in an accident caused by the Stover gang attacking the stagecoach she was on). As Carrie Sue makes her way to Arizona, the stagecoach she’s on is attacked. Saving her is T.J. Rogue, the hero of the book, who is also going to Arizona. His reasons, however, are different than Carrie Sue’s.
This review is of Passions Wild and Free, book #2 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor.
The book begins in Wadesville, Texas, undisclosed time but after the Civil War. Randee Hollis, the heroine of the book, has plans to go after the Epson Gang, a ruthless band of killers who killed her aunt and uncle, Sara Elizabeth and Lee Carson, when the gang attacked their ranch. (Randee was the only survivor of the attack). She decides to hire a man to help her track down and kill the gang members. Randee finds resistance to her plans from Brody Wade, the sheriff of Wadesville-named after his family-who is in love with her and wishes to marry her.
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?
Secret Fire was, I think, the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read which cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.
The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stores I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.
Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey”
Sheila Holland née Coates, known to most readers of romance as Harlequin/ Mills & Boon author Charlotte Lamb is one of my favorite writers, period. Although she created seemingly simple category romances, her books were much more than that. She wrote like few others in her field could: fully inhabiting her characters’ minds and giving them larger-than-life personalities.
Her heroes could be fiercely chauvinistic and cruel with deep-seated psychological issues; others kind, understanding guys who still were emotionally intense. Lamb’s heroines ran the gamut from sheltered teenaged virgins, competent working women struggling to make it in their fields, and sophisticated, mature ladies who’d been around the block once or twice.
Lamb’s Harlequin Presents Seduction has been seared into my memory as one of the earliest romances I read. It was so chock-full of insanity and fantastic writing; I couldn’t get enough. I’ve reviewed it before, so I won’t go into details. If you hate it, read another Charlotte Lamb. She might have revisited similar tropes and characters, but she never wrote the same book twice!
Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her supposed romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.
Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him, as the Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child. Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rurik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”
I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar. I detested him so much I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter”
First Love, Wild Love, a Zebra Lovegram romance, begins in Texas, where Calinda Braxton, the heroine, has come from England to investigate the disappearance of her father, Elliott “Brax” Braxton. Her arrival in Texas is not welcoming, as the stagecoach she’s on is robbed. The stagecoach guard is killed, and the other passengers blame her because she fought back. Disconsolate and penniless, Calinda is taken in by the madam of a house of ill repute and given a room. What happens here sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Calinda is given laudanum by the madam (not for nefarious purposes, but to help her sleep). Into the room comes the owner, Lynx Cardone, the hero of the book. Thinking that Calinda either was sent to his room or heard about him and decided to come on her own, Lynx has dubious consent sex with Calinda. She agrees to have sex with him, but she’s under the influence of the drug.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: First Love, Wild Love by Janelle Taylor”
For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success than Johanna Lindsey. Lindsey reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list with Defy Not the Heart.
Here we at Sweet Savage Flame we review Defy Not the Heart, which we happily rate a 5 star read!
If you’re familiar with your romance history, then you must know of this book, even if you haven’t read it. The cover is the infamous one designed by Robert McGinnis with the naked hero standing tall as the heroine kneels before him, her ample breasts pressed firmly against his–er…dongle.
Tender is the Storm was released in 1985; Lindsey’s 10th consecutive bestseller. McGinnis’ artwork and Lindsey’s novels made for a powerhouse combination. The first two covers were pleasing enough, but starting with 1980’s Fires of Winter, McGinnis would upend the romance industry altogether. Before that, most clinch covers would show the heroine’s heaving bosoms while the hero remained fully clothed. Fires of Winter portrayed a fully naked hero, his legs bent and splayed open with the heroine lying between his thighs.
Pen Names, Noms de Plume, Aliases, and Author Pseudonyms
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet…
ROMEO AND JULIET, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
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”
Christine Monson was best known for her infamous, shocking bodice-ripper Stormfire, which is legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance. Her second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor, but still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.
West Meets East
It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life. Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system. She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.
With a name like Lysistrata that should give a hint about her independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience, however, I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, the face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson”
(Admission: I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and neverwas reprinted in English. It was only released on e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.)
Thanks to Anne Mather’s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put the correct copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but you only get to know that it was published in 1969 after you finish the book. I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid 20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! This book may offend some readers’ sensibilities, or, if you’re twisted like me, make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:
Speak Only Love is yet another Deana James treat. This Zebra romance takes us to Regency Era England and the story of tumultuous love between two uniquely original characters.
Vivian Marleigh is a mute heiress who cannot speak ever since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. She is forced into marriage with a young, hard-drinking viscount, Piers Larne. The marriage was arranged by the viscounts’ wicked father, the Earl.
Piers is not happy about this union, but what can he do? He feels powerless in his life, with no agency. His daddy pulls the strings, and like a puppet, Piers must dance to his control. Piers is a dissolute mess, spending most of his time drinking and recovering from gunshot wounds or the many injuries he receives. For besides being the wastrel son of a nobleman, our hero is also a smuggler.
Although Janelle Taylor has written books for various publishing houses, she will always hold a special place in the early years of theZebrapublishing 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”
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.”