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.
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.
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!)
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”
For the week of Monday, October 4 to Sunday, October 10, 2021 (which happens to be my birthday week), enjoy these silly or awful-looking covers that make us smile.
#1– Pino Daeni was a master artist. He was also prolific, producing 3,000 romance covers in a span of 20 years. Sometimes he had to work quickly. So it’s understandable that some of his works might fall short of his best. Bandit’s Brazen Kiss is actually a pretty cover until you realize this isn’t a paranormal romance, and the hero isn’t a centaur. We know he has to have legs to ride a horse, but where are they? Is he just a torso with arms and a head?... Read more “Covers of the Week #26”
At Dr. Maria DeBlassie’s blog Enchantment Learning she hosted a presentation by our Twitter pal Daily Clinch @Artof the Clinch. We recommend watching this informative video on the history of romance novel clinch covers. They touch upon the genre’s past as well as discussing pivotal cover artists, models, authors, and more.
It’s a little over an hour long, so make some time, settle back and enjoy listening to this enlightening video!
Some romance cover artists work for only a brief time period in the field yet leave a lasting impact. Japanese-born-American artist Ken Otsuka painted sweet book covers in the 1990s for publishing houses such as Kensington’s Zebra and Bantam’s Fanfare lines. For over 40 years Otsuka has worked in commercial and then fine arts. His seascapes are so realistic, you can swear you hear the ocean while gazing upon them.
Whether he created romantic moonscapes, fantasy-romance clinch covers, or whimsical stepbacks featuring a swan-lake or snowy background, his artwork appeals to the romantic senses.
For the week of Monday, September 27, 2021, to Sunday, October 3, let’s take delight in the beauty of Ken Otsuka’s romance covers!
For lovers of throwback historical and gothic romances, vintage pulpy reads and spy thrillers, or old movies and magazines, the name Robert McGinnis might be familiar. But if it isn’t, then his works of art surely are.
For lovers of throwback historical and gothic romances, vintage pulpy reads and spy thrillers, or old movies and magazines, the name Robert McGinnis might be familiar. But if it isn’t, then his works of art indeed are. I consider McGinnis, along with H. Tom Hall and Elaine Duillo, the holy triumvirate of old-school pulp-gothic-romance cover illustrators, although who is the best can be debated.
The Art of Robert McGinnis is a glorious book depicting hundreds of beautiful McGinnis images. Born in 1926, McGinnis has spent over 70 years creating book covers for almost every genre, magazine illustrations, portraits, movie posters, such as the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” featuring Audrey Hepburn. He has worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.
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.
Hot air ballooning is said to be a delightful experience. The winds guiding you high above the earth as you drift through the fluffy, white clouds… It seems like an exhilarating time. Unfortunately, a paralyzing fear of heights makes me feel otherwise. My husband once surprised me with plans for a romantic ride and I refused to go. He ended up taking our daughter!
People were baffled at my reticence. Although I aim for courage, there are things I cannot face.
Need someone to kill a poisonous bug? I’m there with my wide-heeled shoe. Could I face a horde of bio-engineered, flesh-eating Zombies? Not a problem, I can shoot and wield a machete. How about cleaning litter boxes for 5 kitties? Bring it on, I’m a crazy cat lady. But fly thousands of feet into the atmosphere in a rickety basket with only ropes to cling to and giant flames above me jetting into a huge balloon? Never.
Still, they’re beautiful things to behold. From afar, what a magical sight to witness those colorful inverted teardrops float through the air! From a safe distance on land, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, of course.
For the week of September 20 to Monday, September 26, 2021, let’s appreciate these clinch poses on romance covers featuring hot air balloons!... Read more “Covers of the Week #24”
Hearts of Fire is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Anita Mills‘ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel was. Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux. Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.
In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book Richard could have been a villain. In this story he’s the hero and a wonderful one at that.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills”
Illustrator and fine-art painter Sharon Spiak has made a name for herself in the romance industry for producing various gorgeous covers for many bestselling authors. She also had the privilege to paint Fabio almost as much as the Duillo ladies did.
Hailing from the state of New York, Spiak studied fine arts at SUNY-New Paltz. She continued her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where she trained under prolific romance master Pino Daeni. In the 1980s and 1990s, Spiak would design hundreds of book covers, working with the top models and publishers.
Although Pino mentored her, Spiak was not his imitator. Her style is both uniquely her own and yet hard to pin down. The heroes and heroines Spiak paints have gorgeous hair flowing in waves or curls. While she adds extensive detail to backgrounds, the use of color in the foreground results in eye-catching covers. Like many artists, Spiak would have her models photographed in poses before sketching several possible covers. Spiak painted in various mediums, playing with hues and light to make her images pop out.
Our blog mistress Jacqueline Diaz invited me to submit an article with my four favorite covers from vintage romances. Well, I don’t have just four favorites. Of ANYTHING! But she’s letting me post four favorites by the leading illustrators of our genre and period. Each in one blog post.
For my first such post, I want to honor the late, great Elaine Duillo (1928 to 2021). She left us on July 30 of this year and had been retired for some time. But her wonderful illustrations live on.
I picked four covers of hers that haven’t already been posted elsewhere on this blog. With a bit of background and my comments. If you can fill in any info I missed, please add it in the comments. And I welcome your own reactions.
1) Stepback cover for Fireblossom by Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1992. An old-fashioned quilt. A log cabin. The prairies of the Midwest. The hardscrabble life on the American frontier in the nineteenth century. These are images and concepts I don’t usually associate with sex. But Elaine Duillo made everything hot!
At Sweet Savage Flame, we’ve been overlooking category romance covers in favor of flashier historical romance artwork, and it’s time to remedy that. Series cover art is just as lovely. However, sometimes the artwork is not as prominent as it is for historicals. In addition, the big-name cover artists usually produced illustrations for historical romance or full-length contemporary books. Sometimes they did step their toes into the waters of series or category romance and we’re happy that they did!
For the week of Monday, September 6, 2021, to Sunday, September 12, we’re looking at gorgeous category romance covers painted by some of the greatest artists of romance novels. Below are a few category romances illustrated by the legendary ElaineDuillo, Robert Maguire, Elaine Gignilliat, and Pino. Enjoy!
This week Sweet Savage Flame is highlighting male cover models! We all know Fabio, John DeSalvo, and Steve Sandalis. But what about other men who modeled during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s? Looking at these attractive men, we can see how the image of the romance cover hero has evolved throughout the years.
The four men whose artful forms we’re appreciating are pictured on the covers below, left to right:
Chad Deal – Deal posed for hundreds of romance covers in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Perhaps one of the first cover model icons, Deal had a long and successful career. He posed for twice as many covers with Elaine Duillo as Fabio did ( 40+ vs. 19).
Guy Bishop – This internationally famous model lent his face to countless magazines and book covers. Bishop appeared in glitzy advertisements and walked the runways of Paris and New York, showing off designer clothes.
Mike Dale – Dale has worked for Bantam Loveswept, Silhouette/ Harlequin, Zebra, and many other publishers. His face was ubiquitous in 1990s romance covers, his down-to-earth appeal making him a natural for category romance. A true example of a silver fox, Dale now runs a life management business, teaches yoga, and models for catalogs and fashion magazines.
In 1971 singer/songwriter Carole King wrote the lovely song: “You’ve Got a Friend,” which detailed the lasting strength of love. James Taylor recorded it to great acclaim. Other artists like Dusty Springfield and Michael Jackson would put their own twists on the tune. These simple lyrics always stick with me:
Winter, spring, summer, fall All you have to do is call…
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND
The power of love is as old as the Earth and as constant as the four seasons. To live is to love! At Sweet Savage Flame, romance is in the air all year long. So to celebrate, from Monday, August 23, 2021, to Sunday, August 29, our 20th edition of Covers of the Week highlights four beautiful romance covers set during Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
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, 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”
Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Historical Romance” covers. She was a giant in the competitive field of pulp fiction artwork, where women were few and far between. Duillo painted hundreds of book covers, was an inductee of the Illustrators Hall of fame, and was the matriarch of a talented artistic family. She passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.
This amazing cover artist influenced generations of illustrators, revolutionized romance cover art, and helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio. Pictured is one of Elaine’s most-loved covers, Defy Not the Heart, and it is also my all-time favorite cover. Although she created many gorgeous stepbacks, or “tip-ins,” as those in the industry called them, Duillo was not a fan. She believed the eye-catching covers she designed for romance novels were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that! I say. Those gorgeous jackets should be displayed proudly, not covered like some dirty secret!
We at Sweet Savage Flame lament her passing. Our thoughts and sympathy are with her family. We celebrate Elaine Duillo’s life as she brought much joy and beauty to countless tens of millions of readers worldwide.... Read more “Covers of the Week #19”
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.
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.”