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!
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”
This review is of Midnight Captive, a standalone Zebra historical romance from March 1989 by Penelope Neri.
The book begins ominously. A man finds a cache of gold and wishes everything he touches would turn into it. Hearing him, the Devil appears and makes the man a bargain; if the unnamed man sells his soul to the Devil, the Devil will grant his wish. The man agrees. He later realizes, however, that such a bargain has unintended consequences. This is the theme running through the book.
We later meet Krissoula Ballardo, the heroine of the book, and her business partner, Hector Corrales, in Spain. Their business: rolling rich men and stealing from them. When they see Esteban de San Martin, the hero of the book, they try to rob him. This plan fails, and, rather than have Krissoula arrested, Esteban blackmails her into helping him get revenge against his uncle, Felipe Aguilar, in Esteban’s home country of Argentina. (Felipe is the brother of Esteban’s late father, Alejandro, and there is significant bad blood between uncle and nephew, the reasons for which are revealed).... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri”
It’s the mid-1830’s and Scottish immigrant Reiver MacPherson has been granted lands by the new Texas government. The dilapidated property he acquired belonged to an old Spanish family, but the place is now abandoned. Or at least Reiver thinks it is, because to his surprise, there he finds an emaciated young wisp of a girl, Mercedes-Maria, whose family once owned the lands but has fled to Mexico, leaving her behind. So begins Deana James’ Texas Storm.
Mercedes is a bit of a wild child, and at first, Reiver has no patience for her. She insists the land is hers; he claims it’s is. The two butt heads but eventually agree to work together. Slowly, a romance unfolds as the pair get to know one another—sexual attraction forms. With James’ trademark earthy sensuality describing the passages, their passion results in vivid lovemaking sessions.
Mercedes & Reiver get married more out of convenience than love. However, their love grows as they experience adventure after adventure.
A Five-Star Book, Albeit a Rating I Give Reluctantly
After deliberation, I decided to give Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri five stars, although I do so with some high degree of reluctance. The explanation why follows.
The Story: Part One
This Zebra Lovegram begins with the hero of the book, Freya Jorgenson, being born. Her father, Thorfast, is a warring Viking who wanted a son. He orders his man, Sven, to kill Freya. Sven, however, being a kind soul, chooses not to and, with the help of a captured English slave, raises Freya as his daughter.
Earlier, Sven did a similar thing. Years earlier, when Thorfast and his men went a-Viking–i.e., murdering, pillaging, and raping–they sacked an English village, killing all the males and raping the females. One of the women, Wilone, wife of the head of the earldom whom Thorfast killed, offered herself as a sexual slave to Thorfast in exchange for sparing her life and the life of her unborn child. Thorfast raped Wilone and ordered Sven to kill her and her child, which he did not do.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri”
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”
This review is of Dakota Dreams, a standalone Zebra Lovegram romance by Constance O’Banyon.
The book starts on November 1, 1833. On this day, in a blizzard, two lives will end and one will begin. The lives that end are those of Lady Cillia Remington and her husband, Lord Holden Remington, ninth Marquess of Weatherford. The life that begins is that of their son (Cillia gives birth to her son with the help of Two Moons, an Arapaho war chief. Before she dies, she asks Two Moons to raise her son). Two Moons names the child Dakota, and Two Moons and his wife raise Dakota alongside their biological son, Black Otter.
At first, the two boys are friends and brothers, but as they grow to adulthood, their relationship becomes strained, mostly from Black Otter’s end of the world. After Two Moons’ death, Dakota, now 23 and the hero of the book, leaves to go to England. (Two Moons asked Daktoa to do so before he passed for two reasons. One, for Dakota to truly embrace his heritage, and two, because he feared what Black Otter would do to Dakota).... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Dakota Dreams by Constance O’Banyon”
Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.
Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies now residing in San Fransisco, California. The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her much more sophisticated and unsurprisingly young stepmother. But, of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.
On the other hand, Lydia is a woman of social conscience, as she tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, killing women on the streets. Sadly, the mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was, but I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.
“I had a long row to hoe before I could plunge my spade into Mellusine’s earth and plant a seed there.”
FIRES OF WINTER
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Told through alternating first-person perspectives, Roberta Gellis’s Fires of Winter starts with a bang.
In the first chapter, we experience young hero Bruno of Jernaeve’s life as his castle gets invaded. As an illegitimate child, he is overlooked and left uncared for. He and his sister must hide from the marauders. Later on, it switches to heroine Mellusine of Ulle’s more placid point of view as a child. Although I enjoyed the different perspectives, I found Bruno’s side more interesting than Mellusine’s.
As Bruno matures, he becomes a master in the arts of war. His success earns him Melusine, as a “spoil of war,” for Bruno to wed. Despite their differences, Mellusine and Bruno forge a strong relationship built on sexual attraction, companionship, and trust.
Nicole Jordan’s Tender Feud is an engaging Harlequin Historical where the enemies-to-lovers trope is used against the backdrop of 18th-century Scotland.
Katrine Campbell has left staid England behind for adventure in her ancestral Scottish homeland. Unfortunately, her Campbell relatives are feuding with the Macleans. On her first night in her family home, Katrine gets caught in the middle of it all, and is kidnapped.
Her captor is hunky Raith Maclean, leader of his clan. Maclean is a widower, not looking for remarriage, and certainly not looking for love with his half-Scots-half-English enemy.
There are tons of sparks flying between the fiery Katrine and stubborn Raith. They argue lots but are secretly attracted to one another. The romance takes time to unwind, as Katrine is one of those “spunky” heroines, and Raith is determined to “dominate” her by his will.
Instead, the two learn to build a relationship on trust. Raith has a young female relative with whom Katrine builds an endearing friendship. Raith’s sexy cousin Callum flirts with Katrine. Although she’s not interested in him beyond friendship, Raith glowers and disapproves.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tender Feud by Nicole Jordan”
Lovespell is yet another great romance by the eclectic Deana James, who wrote wonderful, complex novels like Captive Angel.
Gillian is an English fletcher who poses as twins, the male Gil & female Gillian. A Norman knight named Brian is badly beaten and his armor has been stolen by an errant squire. He is rescued by Gil who cares for him and helps him heal. Brian is a man often too proud for his own good. His honor demands he must pay recompense to Gil for saving his life so he helps him/her make arrows. To satisfy his life debt, Brian must help Gillian bring the arrows to arm the English, the enemies of his people.
In due time Brian figures out Gil’s true identity. He falls for her, as she does for him. This is just the beginning of their love story.
There are many misadventures along the way, as a cast of multi-faceted secondary characters soon takes the stage, adding more drama, romance, and tragic elements to this story. The man who stole Brian’s knight returns, and he’s not quite the evil character Brian first thought he was.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Lovespell by Deana James”
A pair of Pino covers! For the week of May 17 to May 23 let’s admire some historical romance novel stepback covers illustrated by Giuseppe Dangelico Daeni, aka Pino, a legendary artist we will explore at length very soon here at SweetSavageFlame.com! Aren’t these gorgeous works of art?
Left to right: Deception, Amanda Quick, Bantam Books, 1993, Pino cover art; Dangerous Anita Mills, Topaz, 1996, Pino cover art
Pirate’s Angel, Marsha Bauer, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art
Rating: 5 out of 5.
First of all, I love the original Pirate’s Angel Zebra Heartfire cover, but man-oh-man, have you taken a look at the e-book version? Authors, why are you doing this to your books? Lots of folks love to mock old-school covers and Fabio, but there are e-book covers that make clinches look like Rembrandts. Even a plain black cover with white Comic Sans font would be sexier than whatever the heck that new version is.
Besides loving the original Pino cover, I loved just about everything else in Marsha Bauer’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire pirate romance. Sure, the heroine is a two-faced hussy, as she has a dependable guy back home whom she plans on marrying while she enthusiastically partakes in lovemaking sessions with the hero. But I couldn’t blame Ivy. Drake was wildly attracted to her.
Plus, he was hot. (God, I’m so shallow.)
Our story begins with a lovemaking session some 20+ years prior to the start of the main plot, with the pirate Keils Cauldron making love to a beautiful woman he calls Sunny.
May is upon us! May your days be full of love and joy! Here are some beautiful May-deval romance covers to enjoy for the week of May 3 to May 9.(Groan) That’s an awful pun!
Left to right: Lovefire, Deana James, Zebra, 1985, Pino cover art; Winter Roses, Anita Mills, Onyx, 1992,Greg Gulbronson cover art; Legacy of Shadows, Warner Books, 1987, Sharon Spiak cover art; Rose of Rapture, Warner Books, 1984, Elaine Duillo cover art
“New Mexico 1846…Why would her heart not listen to reason?…Antonia Ramirez knew that the tall, blond American was not to be trusted. Hadn’t it been American soldiers who had killed her mother and left her father a cripple? Yet Tristan Hampton had awakened something deep inside her that would not be denied…Since the moment he’d first laid eyes on Antonia, Tris Hampton had been lost. He was haunted by her dark beauty. She made him feel he’d finally found the completeness he’d spent a lifetime searching for. But her father clearly hated him, and someone wanted to see him dead. Of Antonia’s love, he was certain. The question of her loyalty was still to be answered.”
Rating: 4 out of 5.
In Patricia Potter’s The Silver Link, Antonia and Tristan are from two different worlds. Nevertheless, their forbidden love unites them in a link that can never be severed.
The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independent creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
*** Spoiler alert ***
An Unusual Romance
How do I begin to review this amazing, conflicting journey through a woman’s incredible 19th-century life? I have to tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.
By all rights Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should have tossed into a blazing fire and gleefully cheered, “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”
Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having read a few of Deana James’s books, I knew it couldn’t be that horrible. The cover even had a quote from Johanna Lindsey, stating: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down,” which is 100% true.
Captive Angel surpassed my expectations with probably one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels’ Captive Series.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James”
His own sexuality he recognized as propinquity, tenderness, caring, the beauty, and gentleness of a woman’s body. The infliction of pain, even pseudo-pain, excited him not at all.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Zebra’s Texas Tempest features yet another great, steel-willed Deana James heroine. James has written many resilient heroines before, such as in the seafaring antebellum romance, Captive Angel, and the medieval romance, Lovespell.
The prologue begins with Eugenia Leahy getting beaten by her no-good drunkard of a husband, Cormac. When he goes after her daughter, that’s when mama bear springs into action, grabs a firearm, and shoots him, paralyzing the abuser for life!
We then flash forward 10-15 years later, and Eugenia is running her ranch and doing a great job at it! Tough, cold, and stern, Eugenia is known as “The Diamondback,” as deadly as her namesake. But she is still a woman in a world dominated by men, so she needs some muscle to enforce her rules. Enter the mysterious MacPherson, a gunslinger who saves Eugenia’s life and is just the man for the job.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Tempest by Deana James”
When Alanna sighted a blond giant of a man bathing in a nearby stream, the Irish maiden guessed he was one of those dangerous raiders she’d heard tales of. Though she should have fled, Alanna could not draw her eyes away from his bronzed muscles, long sun-gold hair, and piercing blue eyes. Before she knew it, the Norseman had captured her…. Outraged, Alanna planned her escape; yet when his rock-hard arms enveloped her and his demanding kisses set her pulse on fire, she marveled that a man from a frozen land could evoke such a rapturous heat in her own blood…
HE WAS A FEARLESS VIKING RAIDER
Intent on scouting the alien country for his Viking raiding party, Storr had no time for a furious Erse maiden! Yet, he could not let her sound an alert, so he took her captive. And what a choice beauty he’d gotten! Her lush curves, cocoa-colored eyes, and dark auburn-streaked hair made her a prize beyond compare, But it was the brave but gentle spirit in this fair rose of Erin that finally made the fierce warrior wish to brand her as his alone.