Category Archives: Jennifer Wilde

Jennifer Wilde

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Wilde (aka Thomas E. Huff)

tom huff

Love’s Leading Man, Jennifer Wilde

Introducing Thomas Elmer Huff

While Romance may be a primarily female-dominated market, many men have raised their pens or pushed keys to write romance novels. Of all these men, “Jennifer Wilde” stands out, and not only as the first male to garner blockbuster success in the post-Woodiwiss era.

He was also an advocate of the genre and a fierce supporter of women’s liberty. Hence, he earned the right to bear the moniker of one of “Love’s Leading Ladies.”

Jennifer Wilde was a pseudonym, of course. During his career, Thomas Elmer Huff would write using the names Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, Katherine St. Clair, and T. E. Huff. His most notable name, however, was Jennifer Wilde, under which he sold millions of books.

Huff was born in the Fort Worth, Texas area in 1938. He was the lone son of a large family, including three sisters. After high school, he attended Texas Wesleyan University and then entered the military. Huff would spend a two-year stint in the Army.

Then in 1960, he became an English teacher at a local high school.

While teaching, he found that his female students were avid readers of paperback romantic works. Curious about the subject matter, he decided to read some of those novels. Afterwards, Huff knew he could produce books that were as good or even better than those on the market.

Enter Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, and Katherine St. Clair

It was then that Huff turned his hand to writing. In 1968 using the pen name Edwina Marlow, he published the Gothic Romance The Master of Phoenix Hall with Ace Books.

Using other noms de plume, such as Beatrice Parker and Katherine St. Clair, Huff wrote 14 Gothic novels over a span of nine years.

The Master of Phoenix Hall, Edwina Marlow, Ace, 1968, cover artist unknown
The Master of Phoenix Hall, Edwina Marlow, Ace, 1968, cover artist unknown

The year 1972 changed everything for romance-centered fiction. Thick, door-stopper novels about women having sexual relations outside of marriage, with scenes written in extensive detail, were now all the rage.

So in 1976 Huff adopted another pseudonym: Jennifer Wilde. From thereon, instead of Gothics, he would write for the hot new historical romance genre.

Hello, Jennifer Wilde

Warner Books signed Huff to a deal under the Wilde name. His first outing, Love’s Tender Fury, quickly sold an astounding three million copies in one year. It spent twenty-six weeks on the New York Times paperback bestseller list with forty-one printings in its first five years.

Like Rosemary Rogers’ bed-hopping epics Sweet Savage Love and Wicked Loving LiesLove’s Tender Fury featured a heroine who had multiple lovers besides the hero–often willing, but sometimes not.

It told the first-person-POV tale of Marietta Danvers. Marietta, a ravishing beauty, was an indentured servant in the American colonies who fell for the man who owned her and then cruelly scorned her.

It would be the first in an enormously popular trilogy of novels about Marietta’s various romantic dalliances.

Marietta, Elena, Miranda, and Angel

Love’s Tender Fury, Jennifer Wilde, Warner Books, 1976, H. Tom Hall cover art
Love’s Tender Fury, Jennifer Wilde, Warner Books, 1976, H. Tom Hall cover art

Book blurb for Love’s Tender Fury:

The turbulent story of an English beauty — sold at auction like a slave — who scandalized the New World by enslaving her masters.

Marietta was a woman wronged–raped by her employer, charged with theft by her jealous mistress, and shipped to the Colonies to serve fourteen years as bound servant to the man who bid highest.

But Marietta was beautiful, educated and resilient, with a provocative body meant for love, and she was determined to prevail.

Over the handsome, silent planter who bought her to be his housekeeper….over the dashing entrepreneur who supplied girls to the New Orleans red light district…over the wealthy sadist who used her in his madness.

She would conquer them all–if she could subdue the hot, unruly passions of her heart.

LOVE’S TENDER FURY

Huff’s next Romance, Dare To Love, was also a major bestseller. The heroine was a dancer named Elena Lopez, who had dalliances with composers Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. Loosely based on the life of Lola Montez, the narrative was told in Wilde’s trademark first-person perspective.

Huff would leave Warner Books to briefly join Ballantine. Then after, he signed with Avon, officially becoming part of their stable of “Love’s Leading Ladies.” He would be the only male romance writer to openly enjoy such status.

Among the books he wrote include the single-edition novels, Once More, Miranda, and Angel in Scarlet, which were marked by stunning covers by artists H. Tom Hall, and Elaine Duillo, respectively.

Once More Miranda, Jennifer Wilde, Ballantine, 1983, H. Tom Hall cover art
Once More Miranda, Jennifer Wilde, Ballantine, 1983, H. Tom Hall cover art

Let’s Talk About Tom

Like many of his contemporaries, Wilde wrote in florid, purple prose, often describing the characters’ clothing, the settings, and the food eaten in minute detail. Sometimes it would be so over the top, veering into ridiculousness (see our review for Angel in Scarlet).

I don’t take the genre seriously… But I take my work seriously… I’ve become more painstaking, more professional… There are ‘mandatory heavy-breathing scenes,’ but I don’t write down to readers. I’d rather take the time and do it good.”

TOM HUFF

Wilde would play fast and loose with the rules of the nascent romance genre, such as concluding a book with a cliffhanger. He also employed hero bait-and-switches in some of his novels, so the reader never knew who the heroine would end up with until the very end.

Except for the fictional biography of Tallulah Bankhead, Marabelle, which he wrote under his real name, the rest of Huff’s books would be published as Jennifer Wilde. After the Marietta series, he moved from bodice ripper-style romances to more character-driven stories that told the lives and loves of his heroines.

Marabelle,
Marabelle, Tom E. Huff, St. Martin’s Press, 1980, cover artist unknown

Farewell, Mr. Huff

Huff earned a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine in 1987-1988. His final book, They Call Her Dana, was released in late 1989.

On January 18, 1990, Tom Huff died suddenly at the age of 52 of a heart attack. He left no children behind, was single, and lived with his elderly mother.

In the 2010s, much of Huff’s backlist was released in e-format. Now a new generation of readers can enjoy this creative male romance author’s books.

Your Opinion

Have you read Jennifer Wilde’s romances? Or any of the Gothics penned under Huff’s other pseudonyms? Did you even know Jennifer Wilde was a pen-name for a man? Drop us a comment and let’s talk romance.

Jennifer Wilde Historical Romance Backlist

BOOKRELEASE DATE
Love’s Tender Fury
Jan-1976
Love Me, MariettaAug-1977
Dare to LoveJan-1978
Once More, MirandaMay-1983
When Love CommandsOct-1984
Angel in ScarletAug-1986
The SlipperOct-1987
They Call Her DanaSep-1989
Angel In Scarlet duillo

Historical Romance Review: Angel in Scarlet by Jennifer Wilde

Synopsis:

Angela Howard was the toast of London — a breathtaking vision every woman envied and every man longed to possess. Few would have dreamed this violet-eyed beauty was the precocious child of a country schoolmaster… the feisty girl who had spurned Lord Clinton Meredith, the “fairy tale prince”, to surrender her innocence to Hugh Bradford, his illegitimate brother… the young woman who had come to London with nothing but a broken heart — and a fierce determination to survive.

Now she was a celebrated actress; immortalized on canvas by Gainsborough; adored by Jamie Lambert, the playwright who made her his star; desired by the golden-haired lord obsessed with making her his lady… and still tormented with longing for the man who had branded her very soul with his passion, and who has now returned to reawaken past splendors of a love he means to reclaim….

ANGEL IN SCARLET by JENNIFER WILDE

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Angel In Scarlet

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.

The Plot

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?

She goes through ups and downs. Angela carves her way into society, falls in love, and has her heart broken. She then moves to London to make it big as an actress. She gets married and is widowed, her heart gets broken once more.

Three men vie for Angela’s love: Hugh Bradford, the bastard son of a nobleman, whose passion for Angela is surpassed only by his desire for legitimacy & a title. There’s the arrogant womanizer, Lord Clinton Meredith, Hugh’s half-brother, who is more than what he seems. And last, the famous playwright, James “Jamie” Lambert, has a tumultuous professional and personal career with Angela.

Highlight to View Spoilers Below

In the end, Angela picked the last man I thought she should be with. It broke the rules to end up with the guy she did, but that’s what Mr. Huff was good at, breaking the rules. I can’t forget how shocked I was at the end of Love Me, Marietta.

So it was the “right” choice because the man she loved could never be content with just loving her.

(Highlight the white area below to read spoilers.)

Past the age of thirty, a person shouldn’t blame their parents for their shortcomings, yet Hugh had a rough childhood, so I couldn’t fault him. His life was so difficult, and he had nothing except his dreams. They were absolutely shattered at the end. He got what he wanted, but it wasn’t worth it without Angela.

Still, I felt bad for him. I guess that’s the mark of a good writer if you can make your “villain” sympathetic. He was single-minded and wrong, but Angela was so harsh because he wanted to get his fortune. Finished! Angela, you broke that man’s heart! He was cruel and misguided, but he loved you. After what happened to Clinton, she had every right to be. Clinton was not the man for her, but I loved him. He was so sweet (plus a blond) and got teary-eyed when he made his exit.

As for Jamie, he was a great character, but Angela lived with him for years and never realized she loved him until they were through. Certainly not the kind of epic love you’d expect in a romance. I wish Hugh hadn’t turned into a jerk for her to have to make that decision.

The scene where Jamie revealed his true feelings for Angela was fantastic, and if it had been more of those, I don’t think I’d feel as conflicted.

Let’s Get It On

Wilde never met a word that wasn’t a friend. Adverbs, adjectives, subjective clauses, it’s all there, and then some! One particular passage struck out to me as ridiculously cartoony:

We ate slowly, looking at each other the whole while, silent, anticipating, savoring the sensations building, mounting inside. Utterly enthralled I watched him eat chicken, his strong white teeth tearing the flesh apart, and it was thrilling, tantalizing. I observed the way his neck muscles worked when he swallowed his wine, and that was thrilling, too and I watched with fascination as his large brown hand reached out, fingers wrapping around a fuzzy golden-pink peach, clutching it. He took up a knife and carefully peeled the peach and divided it into sections and ate them one by one, his brown eyes devouring me as he did so. The tip of his tongue slipped out and slowly licked the peach juice from his lips…

ANGEL IN SCARLET

I think this was supposed to be a sensually-tinged scene like the one out of the film “Barry Lyndon.” As for me, I was reminded of the “3rd Rock From the Sun” Thanksgiving episode where Harry and Vicki have leftover foreplay, eating turkey legs and dipping their fingers in gravy. Then Harry puts a turkey carcass on his head, and the loving begins.

“3rd Rock From the Sun,” Carsey Werner Company/NBC

Final Analysis of Angel in Scarlet

This was the story of the rise of actress Angela Howard and her (not too many) loves.

At 600 pages long, Jennifer Wilde’s Angel in Scarlet runs a tad overlong. That might have been due to Wilde’s penchant for purple prose, clothes porn, and food porn. Sex porn? Nah, Wilde uses a stream of consciousness perspective and euphemisms for love scenes. Hardly porn.

Mr. Wilde could have cut out 100 pages of description. I didn’t need to know the details of every outfit worn by every character in every scene.

Although I enjoyed it, I’m not 100% certain Angela made the right decision in the end.

I wanted to hate this, but something about Huff’s writing pulled me in. Yes, it’s as purple as grape jelly and full of run-on sentences, but for some reason, I can tolerate it more than Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ prose. The tension of not knowing who Angela was going to choose and the resulting emotions when she did are feelings I won’t forget.

3.88 stars