Category Archives: Cover Artists

velvet night ennis

Historical Romance Review: Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Rating: three-stars
Published: 198
Illustrator: John Ennis
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: War of 1812 Series #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Velvet Night, book #2 in the “War of 1812 Series” by Jo Goodman. The review for Book #1, Passion’s Bride, later reissued as The Captain’s Lady, is available on the blog.

The Plot

Velvet Night begins in England, 1805. Kenna Dunne, 13, the heroine, lives with her father, Robert; her stepmother, Victorine Dussault Dunne; her brother, Nicholas; and her stepsister, Yvonne. On this night, the Dunne is hosting a masquerade party at their family estate, Dunnelly.

The festivities will be brief. Before the night is over, an unknown criminal murders Robert.

Fast forward ten years. Kenna, now 23, is visited by Nicholas’ long-time friend Rhys (pronounced Reese) Canning, this book’s hero. And the person whom Kenna believes killed her father.

As the Velvet Night goes on, multiple attempts are made on Kenna’s life. She and Rhys draw close and eventually become lovers. Soon after that, she is kidnapped and brought to a brothel. Before the worst can happen, she is saved by Rhys’ “friend,”–who is also a madam.

Later, Kenna and Rhys marry, and he takes her to America, to Boston. After his father and brother were killed in a fire, Rhys inherited his family’s shipping business in the city. He has brought Kenner there to keep her safe from danger.

When they arrive in Boston, Kenna and Rhys make friends with Alexis Quinton-Cloud and Tanner Cloud (the heroine and hero of book #1 in this series, Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady); they own Garnet Shipping, the very competitors of Canning Shipping.

Kenna and Rhys also make enemies in Boston’s business and social circles.

Unfortunately, the threats against Kenna don’t stop after she arrives in America. Her life is in peril several more times. The bad guys kidnap her once again before her father’s killer’s true identity is revealed.

Rhys saves her, as the hero always does in these books. They unmask and dispose of the killers.

Kenna and Rhys have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Kenna and Rhys are fairly nice characters.

The Downside

Velvet Night reminds me very much of oatmeal or rice with nothing added: okay on some levels, but very bland.

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

The scenes that are supposed to be exciting (e.g., the many attempts on Kenna’s life) aren’t. Plus, there is little chemistry between Kenna and Rhys in or out of bed.

The “mystery” surrounding the killer of Robert Dunne is pretty easy to solve. I figured out who it was by the 25% point of the book.

Sex

A few love scenes, none of which are particularly hot or sensual.

Violence

There is some assault and battery. Then shootings and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Velvet Night

Velvet Night is a very pale sequel to Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady. Jo Goodman’s previous Zebra historical was far superior to this lukewarm romance novel.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis

HE BETRAYED HER FATHER
Ever since she was a girl, flame-haired Kenna Dunne had hated handsome Rhys Canning for lying about killing her father. Now, even though she hadn’t seen him since the war ended, the vengeance–seeking beauty swore to make the smooth-talking scoundrel confess his crime. But the moment she cop fronted him, all Kenna could do was stare breathlessly at his magnificent body, his ebony hair, and his entrancing eyes. Se knew she should denounce him as a murderer, but somehow all she could do was caress him as her lover…

SHE BROKE HIS HEART
As an American spy, Rhys could never reveal the truth to the fiery Kenna without jeopardizing his mission. It was best that he never again see the provocative temptress … but she d raged in his blood for years and now it was time for the reward or his patience. The brash colonial crushed her lips beneath his and molded his strong hands to her lush curves. Even though he knew she’d detest him forever after this evening, Rhys had waited too long to keep from recklessly plunging into splendor during this long luscious VELVET NIGHT.

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Colleen-Shannon-Wild-Heart-Tamed

Covers of the Week #87: Don Case

Artist: Donald Case

Don Case is an artist whose works I have seen on the cover of historical and regency romances since I began reading the genre 33 years ago.

Lamentably, I have never been able to uncover any information about this talented illustrator. In fact, the only hits I got on him during a web search directed me to my Pinterest page of Case’s covers.

His presence in the industry goes back to the mid-1980s. Publishers such as Warner Books, Simon & Schuster‘s Pocket Books Division, Berkeley/ Jove’s Charter imprint, and Kensington’s Zebra imprint have displayed Case’s cover illustrations.

His style is bright and colorful. It appears Case used a spray technique in some of his early covers (similar to George A. Bush). By the 1990s, like many of his Zebra colleagues, such as Franco Accornero and Jon Paul Ferrara, he incorporated digital methods to create romance covers.

The Covers

Don Case the artist remains a mystery, but his lovely artwork isn’t forgotten. For the week of Monday, January 16, 2023, to Sunday, January 22, 2023, this Covers of the Week shows off four covers designed by Donald Case.

Don Case Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom

  • Blazing Passion, Barbara Cummins, Zebra, 1991
  • Wild Heart Tamed, Colleen Shannon, Charter, 1986
  • The Scotsman Bride, Linda Madl, Zebra, 1999
  • Summer Eyes, Joan Lancaster, Charter, 1988

Your Opinion

What do you think of this week’s theme? Do any of the Don Case covers stand out to you as a favorite? Have a recommendation for a future Covers of the Week theme? Let us know, and we’ll try it out.

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

rhapsody SQAURE

Covers of the Week #86: Women on Top

women on top

Theme: Women on Top

With all the variety of poses for romance covers, the rarest to spot is the woman on top of the hero. Clinch covers show couples embracing in various positions. Standing up, laying down, in bed, on the floor, on the seashore… Every situation imaginable has been pictured on the covers of romance books.

But seeing the heroine in a dominant position or laying on top of the hero is hard to find. Believe us, we searched and searched.

And indeed, we were fortunate to come upon a selection of covers where the exception is the rule.

The Covers

The heroines in these romances are running the show! For the week of Monday, January 9, 2023, to Sunday, January 15, 2023, this Covers of the Week displays an assortment of covers featuring the women laying on top of their heroes.

Women on Top Covers (from Left to Right, Top to Bottom)

Your Opinion?

What do you think of this week’s theme of women on top? Do any of the covers stand out to you as a favorite? Have a recommendation for a future Covers of the Week theme? Let us know, and we’ll try it out.

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

Historical Romance Review: Autumn Dove by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

book review historical romance
Autumn Dove by Sylvie F. Sommerfield
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 478
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Autumn Dove by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Autumn Dove by Sylvie F. Sommerfield, a standalone Zebra romance from January 1989.

The Plot

Starting in 1865, on the Kansas/Colorado border, readers meet Zachary Hale Windwalker. Zach, who is half-white and half-Cheyenne, is trying to discover who is running guns to the plains Indians. This, plus, stirring them up to fight the whites who come into the area.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., Tara Montgomery, 19, has just lost her parents in a carriage accident. With nowhere else to turn, she decides to go west to live with her brother David, a soldier stationed at Fort Lyon.

She signs on to a wagon train, which Zach is leading. He doesn’t want her there, for several reasons, which are quickly revealed.

As the train makes its way west, Tara and Zach become lovers, but also at odds with each other.

The wagon train makes its way to Fort Lyon, where Tara discovers David isn’t there; he’s on assignment from the Army.

We also learn a bit more about Zach; his mother, Karolyn, who was white, was a teacher. She fell in love with Zach’s father, Waiting Wolf. When Karolyn passed, Waiting Wolf married a Cheyenne woman, Singing Grass, Zach’s stepmother, and they had a son, Little Raven.

Little Raven soon gets into trouble sneaking into the fort. He and Zach are arrested and sentenced to hang. They escape as Zach takes Tara hostage.

Readers also meet Tara’s older brother, David, 25. David has issues he’s trying to resolve in his life as well. He’s in love with a Cheyenne woman, Small Fawn. He doesn’t know how his parents–whom he doesn’t know are dead–or Tara will handle this news.

In the end, the gunrunner is caught. David marries Small Fawn. Tara and Zach have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The best part of Autumn Dove is the second half of the book. It is here that Tara and Zach realize that they love each other and she is able to get him to let go of some of his bitterness regarding his treatment at the hands of white people.

Downside

In order to get to the second half of the book, however, one has to go through the first half, and the first half is…meh.

There is no emotional juice here, at all. There is also no character depth or development. Mrs. Sommerfield never made me care about any of the characters, beyond the fact that they were in the book.

It feels very much like Mrs. Sommerfield fell into the “Readers Are Supposed to Care” trap. In Autumn Dove, Mrs. Sommerfield believes “Readers Are Supposed to Care” because:

  1. Tara lost her parents and has to go to live with her only other relative, David, her brother.
  2. Zach is hurt by being shunned by whites for being half-white, half-Cheyenne.
  3. David is concerned about being shunned and his life because he is in love with Small Fawn.

It is possible I COULD have cared about any or all of those things if Mrs. Sommerfield gave me a reason to do so. She didn’t. The ending of the book is highly disappointing, not to mention boring.

Sex

Multiple love scenes involving Tara and Zach, and one involving Small Fawn and David. None of these love scenes are exciting, interesting, or hot. These love scenes have all the heat of cold water.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, kidnapping, and “off-screen” killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line On Autumn Dove

Mrs. Sommerfield tilled this ground-and in a much better way-in her earlier book, Savage Rapture.

Autumn Dove is a major disappointment.  

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
4
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis:

HATE COLD AS THE WINTER SNOW
When her parents died without a cent, innocent Tara Montgomery had no choice but to head for Fort Lyon to reunite with her soldier brother. The independent miss never dreamed of the journey’s perils – and the worst was her suntanned, buckskin-clad wagonmaster Zach Windwalker. His disdain of women traveling alone infuriated her; his grisly stories of Western life annoyed her. But Zach’s masterful lips upon her sensitive flesh drove her to distraction. Even as Tara swore to dispise him forever, the passionate pioneer was guiding his hands to her buttons, her chemise…and to the wildly beating heart beneath!

LOVE HOT AS THE SUMMER SUN
Half-breed frontiersman Zach Windwalker didn’t need a tempting morsel like Tara Montgomery in his life – not when he was on the verge of trapping the gunrunners who were supplying the Cheyenne. The virile tracker planned to almost seduce the untouched beauty to scare her back to Washington D.C. But at the moment the strong-willed male should have pushed her away, he pulled Tara even closer. With only the vast plains and distant hills as witness, Zach was as single-minded as the invincible American eagle as he swooped down with unwavering passion upon his unresisting, gentle AUTUMN DOVE.

AUTUMN DOVE by SYLVIE F. SOMMERFIELD
embrace the wild land sabin

Historical Romance Review: Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner

book review historical romance
Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 446
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Embrace the Wild Land, book #4 in the “Savage Destiny series” by Rosanne Bittner.

The Plot

It is now 1861, and Abigail Trent Monroe and her husband, “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, and their seven children are living happily in what is now present-day Colorado. Which means something bad is going to happen. It does when the Monroes travel to an Army fort. A soldier tries to rape Abbie, and Zeke later kills him.

Meanwhile, Zeke’s white half-brother, Danny, goes back east to join the Confederacy in the Civil War. In another development, Winston Garvey, ex-U.S. Senator and “Evil White Man,” is trying to find out the name and whereabouts of his half-Indian son.

As troubles mount for Zeke, Abbie, the Cheyenne, and all Indian tribes, Danny is severely wounded during the Civil War. Garvey’s son, Charles, and some of Garvey’s men have a confrontation with Zeke, Abbie, and their family. The Monroes win the confrontation.

However, the elder Garvey puts the information together and realizes that the Monroes know about his other son. This leads to Garvey sending men to kidnap Abbie, who is later emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abused by Garvey and his henchmen.

As the book progresses, Zeke finds Danny, and one of his other half-brothers, Lance. (A third half-brother, Lenny, was killed in the Civil War.)

Zeke also makes some peace with his biological father. Zeke and his eldest son, Wolf’s Blood, deal out justice to Garvey and his men, and Zeke and Abbie re-find each other and, for a little while, are happy again.

The Upside

As always, Ms. Bittner draws tremendous pictures with her words. She brings me, as a reader, into the lives of the Monroe family. Ms. Bittner makes me see not words on a page, but real people, with real emotions.

The Downside

At times, Ms. Bittner’s writing is formulaic. I’ve already described this in earlier reviews.

Sex

The weakest part of Ms. Bittner’s writing is her love scenes, which are neither particularly sexy nor imaginative to me.

Violence

Ms. Bittner, however, has a great imagination for violence, and it definitely shows up in Embrace the Wild Land. As usual, there are multiple scenes of shooting, assault, sexual assault, and killing. Toward the end of the book, it’s especially graphic.

In Ms. Bittner’s world, the bad people always get their comeuppance. Unfortunately, not before seriously hurting the good people.

Bottom Line on Embrace the Wild Land

Embrace the Wild Land isn’t my favorite book by Rosanne Bittner, but it’s still darn good. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis

Pioneers poured into the West; Civil War ravaged the East. But as upheaval racked the continent, the Cheyenne brave Lone Eagle and his courageous white woman Abigail Trent rediscovered their desire in the peaceful New Mexico territory. Their family grew with the years and it seemed that the troubles that had tormented them would never return to invade the ranch by the wide Arkansas River.

But the chaotic world burst in upon them, separating them again. Lone Eagle had to leave the ecstasy he found in Abigail’s arms for the horror of the white man’s war. Though fresh sorrows would always plague them, the Cheyenne warrior and his determined wife believed in their love. Though they were forced apart, they knew that somehow they would be reunited and free once more to share their chosen Savage Destiny.

Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

***

passion flower walter popp

Historical Romance Review: Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman

book review historical romance
Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Forced Seduction
Pages: 473
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman, a Zebra historical romance from 1983.

The Plot

Passion Flower begins with introductions to the heroine of the book, Catherine Mary “Jasmine” O’Neil. She is so nicknamed due to the fragrance her late mother wore, which comforted Jasmine after her mother’s death.

Jasmine lives in Jamaica with her grandfather, Franz, a physician. Later, she meets Captain Johnathon Mahn, an English ex-pat and the hero of the book. Johnathon is asked to root out arms smuggling in Jamaica, which is how he and Jasmine come to meet.

Jasmine and Franz accidentally find out about the illegal activity. Franz is killed, and Jasmine is taken captive. She is told she can gain her freedom if she spies on Johnathon.

He finds her spying on him, and they become lovers. Both later escape Jamaica and set sail for Johnathon’s plantation in Virginia.

In Virginia, Jasmine gets a job as a physician’s assistant. What she doesn’t know is that the job–and her home and many other things–are due to the largesse of Johnathon.

Jasmine also attracts many male admirers. These admirers arouse Johnathon’s jealousy, which later leads him to rape Jasmine. Jasmine and Johnathon later marry once it is known that she is pregnant.

One of the soldiers from Jamaica finds Jasmine in Virginia and kidnaps her. In the end, she is saved, and Jasmine and Johnathon then have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

The most interesting character in the book, in my view, is Bear Dog, a half-bear, half-wolf who befriends Jasmine on the ship voyage to Virginia and saves her when she is kidnapped.

The Downside

When the most interesting character in the book has four legs and fur, that is a stinging indictment of the human characters. Neither Jasmine nor Johnathon are particularly deep characters, although Jasmine is more so than Johnathon.

The storylines are flat and lifeless. The “Jamaican Gun Smuggling” trope is so lame Ms. Horsman may as well not have included it.

Then there is Johnathon’s rape of Jasmine. No romance hero ever redeems himself with me if he sexually assaults a woman.

There is very little to no romance between Jasmine and Johnathon.

Sex

There are a handful of sex scenes, none of which are graphic or interesting.

Violence

In addition to Franz’s killing, there are scenes of attempted rape, rape, assault and battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line on Passion Flower

Jennifer Horsman has enough items on the menu of Passion Flower to make a good meal. Instead, she produces a book that’s raw, like sushi.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
4
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

GARDEN OF LOVE

Gorgeous Jasmine O’Neil never meant to fall in love with the insolent handsome captain. His voice was commanding, his reputation was roguish, and his manner was much too imperious. But despite all his drawbacks, the innocent beauty couldn’t resist the spell of masculine charm and tingling pleasure he cast upon her. Suddenly, she knew she was in love – and she was certain that his declarations of desire were undying promises of matrimony.

PARADISE OF ECSTACY

Captain Johnathon Mahn couldn’t deny himself the untouched woman’s beckoning curves. He tangled himself in their sweet tormenting rapture. Nothing could ever make him give up this mistress – but nothing would ever compel him to wed! He was a man of independence who took what he wanted…and he craved his fragrant Jasmine, his velvety blossom, his delicate PASSION FLOWER.

Passion Flower by Jennifer Horseman
forever-paradise-griffin

Covers of the Week #82: James Griffin

Covers of the Week JAMES GRIFFIN

Artist: James Griffin

Artist James Griffin is a fine artist who has been illustrating romance covers since the 1970s. He has painted covers for almost every major romance publisher, getting his big start with Fawcett. He famously painted many stunning covers for Jennifer Blake

His career in romance continued well into the 2010s and as he moved from painting in oils to using digital technology.

James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.

His “classic” era artwork is dramatic with windswept hair and passionate embraces. James Griffin’s graceful aesthetic resulted in romance covers that emotionally resonated with readers.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, December 12, 2022, to Sunday, December 18, 2022, our Covers of the Week focuses on the early romance covers painted by artist James Griffin.

The Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom

  • Forever Paradise, Amanda North, Zebra, 1990
  • Nicole La Belle, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1984
  • Barbados, Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1995
  • Louisiana Dawn, Jennifer Blake, Fawcett, 1987

Your Opinion

What do you think of these romance covers illustrated by James Griffin? Have you read any of these books? Which of our picks do you like the best, if any?

Do you have suggestions or requests for future Covers of the Week themes you’d like to see on Sweet Savage Flame? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to create a gallery of stunning art!

Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

book review historical romance
Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 574
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penelope Neri is one of the more versatile authors I’ve read from Kensington’s Zebra imprint. Neri’s first two books were set in England in the 1700s. Her third book was set in 19th-century Hawaii. Her fourth, Hearts Enchanted, takes place in Medieval England in the 13th century.

For the most part, the books have worked, some better than others. Hearts Enchanted is one of Penelope Neri’s “better than others.”

The Plot

Hearts Enchanted begins with an introduction to the hero, Brian Fitzwarren, a part-French, part-English, part Welsh Lord. He is gifted by King Edward I with land called Striguil, which is on the border between England and Wales. It is there that Brian meets the heroine, Lady Maegan Ruthven.

Brian actually doesn’t meet Maegan, he spies on her bathing and immediately becomes attracted to her, despite the fact that their people are at war with each other. This comes to a head when Maegan’s father and three brothers are captured making war against an English Lord. King Edward I summons Maegan and gives her an ultimatum. She must marry Brian or her male relatives will be killed. Naturally, Maegan agrees to the marriage, although she hopes to leave Brian eventually.

As their marriage goes on, Maegan and Brian are in lust with each other–they’re clearly sexually attracted to each other–but they don’t want to fall in love, as both have been hurt by lost loves. Maegan’s fiancee died. Brian was betrayed by the woman he previously loved, who married his stepbrother for power and wealth. Maegan and Brian also don’t trust each other because of their ethnic backgrounds and Maegan’s belief that Brian is unfaithful to her. He’s not, by the way.

The woman Maegan believes Brian is having an affair with, Lady Moina, is his cousin. She is trying to help Brian regain his rightful title and lands from his evil stepmother, stepbrother, and faithless ex-fiancee. Eventually, Brian regains his lands, title, and most importantly, the love of Maegan as they realize that they truly do love each other, and that overcomes their initial hatred and mistrust of the other person.

The Upside

Hearts Enchanted is a good book, with lots of chemistry.

The Downside

There are some formulaic parts. Namely the fact that, once again, Ms. Neri puts the heroine in peril when she has to be rescued by the hero. This is something that happens in virtually every one of Ms. Neri’s books. This is rather annoying as her female characters are pretty strong women mentally. Yet they always seem to be dumb enough to get into a perilous situation that they need their men to get them out of.

Sex

Quite a few semi-hot sex scenes, but none approach erotica.

Violence

There are a few violent moments, but none too graphic.

Bottom Line on Hearts Enchanted

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri is a nice book for those who like medieval romance. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

PASSIONS ENFLAMED
The moment Lord Brian Fritzwarren saw the saucy, slender wench bathing in the river he could not staunch his desire. Her fresh, sun-warmed skin beckoned for his touch. Her flawless, seductive face invited him to rain fiery kisses along her delicate curves. That she was his enemy’s daughter no longer mattered. The masterful lord resolved that somehow he would claim the irresistible beauty as his own.

WILLS ENTHRALLED
While she frolicked in the sparkling water, tawny-haired Maegan felt she was being watched… then she met the smoldering gleam in Brian’s smoke gray eyes. Her cheeks flushed with shame—but her blood pounded hotly in her veins as he boldly gazed upon her body. Shivering with fear and delight, Maegan fought what she instinctively knew: she could never let herself love her foe, but their paths would forever be entwined, their lives entangled, their HEARTS ENCHANTED.

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

***

daughter of sand

Covers of the Week #79: Jordi Penalva

jordi penalva

Artist: Jordi Penalva

Jordi Bosch Peñalver was born in Barcelona, Catalunia, Spain in 1927. Peñalver signed his artwork as Jordi Penalva. He worked primarily as an illustrator of fantasy and military fictional well as comic book covers.

Penalva has an older brother, Antonio Bosch Peñalver, who was born in 1925 and created several comic strips in Spain.

Jordi Penalva studied at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in Barcelona. In the late 1950s, he began work as a comic artist with several companies, eventually finding his way to DC. Along with other Spanish artists of his era, like Manuel Sanjulian, Esteban Maroto, and Enrich Torres, Penalva was popular for his sensual art style and comic work, including his Vampirella covers.

Penalva dabbled in romance cover art in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the late 1970’s he was frequently used by Playboy Press, illustrating full-cover color clinches. That style would be used as a template by many other publishers like Kensington and Dorchester to attract potential readers.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, November 21, 2022, to Sunday, November 27, 2022, our Covers of the Week focuses on the early romance covers by Jordi Penalva.

The Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

  • Midnight Fires, Andrea Layton, Playboy Press, 1979
  • Daughter of the Sand, Pamela South, Playboy Press, 1979
  • Tempt Not This Flesh, Barbara Riefe, Playboy Press, 1979
  • Tamarisk, Claire Lorrimer, Jove, 1978

Your Opinion

What do you think of Jordi Penalva’s style? Which of our picks do you like the best, if any?

Do you have suggestions or requests for future Covers of the Week themes you’d like to see on Sweet Savage Flame? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to create a gallery of stunning art!

Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

Roberta Gellis

Covers of the Week #78: Oliviero Berni

OLIVIERO BERNI

Artist: Oliviero Berni

Oliviero Berni was one of the many great cover artists of old-school romance who came from Italy.

Franco Accornero, Pino, Renato Aime, and Alessandro Biffignandi are other well-known Italian artists we’ve covered at Sweet Savage Flame.

Berni was born in 1931 in Milano, Lombardia, Italy. He was prominent in illustrating fantasy and science fiction covers.

As a romance novel cover artist, Berni worked for Harlequin, Dell, Warner, Kensington, and Jove.

Berni has a style similar to Aime & Biffignandi and even early John Ennis covers.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, November 14, 2022, to Sunday, November 20, 2022, please enjoy these phenomenal romance covers by artist Oliviero Berni.

The Covers from Left to Right, Top to Bottom

  • Passion’s Dawn, Elaine Barbieri, Zebra,1985 
  • Fire Song, Roberta Gellis, Jove, 1984
  • Betray Not My Passion, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Zebra, 1984
  • Wild Sweet Wilderness, Dorothy Garlock, Warner, 1985

Your Opinion

What do you think of Oliviero Berni’s style? Which of our picks do you like the best, if any?

Do you have suggestions or requests for future Covers of the Week themes you’d like to see on Sweet Savage Flame? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to create a gallery of stunning art!

Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 Old-School Cover Artists All Romance Readers Should Know

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 of the Best Historical Romance Cover Illustrators

I adore romances from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, partly due to the beautiful cover art. Over the years, I’ve amassed thousands of dazzling images. It’s a fun hobby trying to discover the artists who created them.

This compilation began as an attempt to list the ten artists every lover of old-school romances and clinch covers should know. Ten became fifteen, then twenty. Finally, I settled on 21 illustrators to identify.

This catalog of names consists of some of the best romance cover artists of all time.

That doesn’t mean these are the only artists to know, as this list is limited to historical romances written in the last third of the 20th century.

These 21 entries provide a starting point for the novice learner.

1. Robert McGinnis

Robert McGinnis illustrated Gothic books before he turned to mainstream romance.

His first bodice ripper was Avon‘s reissue of Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower. McGinnis then designed the cover for her sophomore outing, The Wolf and the Dove. His suggestive clinches for Johanna Lindsey, Patricia Hagan, and Laura Parker gained him acclaim and notoriety.

McGinnis worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.

His mature, angular style was an instant draw for romance. McGinnis created the first naked man covers, which delighted genre fans.

But it was the McGinnis woman who was a being of legend. McGinnis depicted the feminine form in a most alluring fashion.

“The McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books.”

(Source: Vanity Fair)

2. H. Tom Hall

H. Tom Hall’s artwork for romance book covers is legendary. His technique is instantly recognizable: refined and sensual.

The strokes are broad yet precise. Hall’s scenes contain a dark, smoky essence. The heroines’ long locks flow wildly, while the heroes’ faces are shadowed and inscrutable.

Hall had a sensitive, respectful touch when portraying people of different races and ethnicities. Thus his illustrations were prominent on paperbacks set all over the world.

3. Harry Bennett

Harry Bennett‘s dazzling style of swirls and whorls of flowing hair may be especially familiar to fans of Pocket Books‘ early historical romances. He created memorable covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.

While his work inspired many other artists, Harry Bennetts covers have been confused with those of H. Tom Hall. While their depictions might appear similar, a keen eye needs only to look at the faces of the male models to spot the difference.

Of his artwork, Bennett’s son Tom, also a painter, said:

“My father had a great facility with mediums, and he experimented and adapted to new trends with different techniques. His favorite medium above all, in both his painting and illustration, was oil.

He also worked extensively in egg tempera, inks, and various combinations of tempera and oil. In the 1950s and early ’60s he worked a great deal in water-based media like gouache.

Later, he would occasionally work in acrylic. But late in his career, it was almost exclusively oil with a black oil medium.”

TOM BENNETT, KILLER COVERS OF THE WEEK

4. Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Romance Covers.” She started in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance.

Duillo was not ashamed to be sexy and outrageous with her art. She embraced camp to the hilt. Her reverence for beauty and perfection made her creative style a wonder to behold.

Duillo’s technique was marked by hyper-realism, unparalleled attention to detail, and a vast palette of colors.

Elaine would paint light hues onto a black canvas. This achieved stunning results for elements such as platinum-blonde or red-gold flowing waves of hair or sumptuous, satin gowns that looked like one could touch them.

Duillo worked in acrylics and oils. She placed her signature, “Elaine,” as close to the bodies as possible.

Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also produced romance covers, in a manner similar to Elaine’s.

5. Pino Daeni

Pino Daeni’s brushstrokes, the curves of his feminine subjects, and their facial expressions make his covers uniquely recognizable.

Daeni was always willing to experiment with different methods and poses. He was one of the early artists to employ the wraparound cover design and the pose and clinch style.

Pino worked in oils and preferred to stand while painting.

Pino’s innovative technique precedes him. He mixed impressionism and realism to create his own intoxicating style.

“I used to paint in the academic way. Then I changed. I could no longer stay with just one school. Everything was interesting to me. I was curious about various schools of thought.”

Pino, (2006)

6. Elaine Gignilliat

Elaine Gignilliat designed covers for hundreds of romances. Her artwork demonstrated exquisite attention to detail, especially with the textures of fabrics and hair. Her use of bright colors against dark backdrops made for remarkable images.

Like most other cover artists of her day, Gignilliat worked in oils.

Also, like many other of her contemporaries, Gignilliat designed covers for epic historical blockbusters and shorter category romances.

After making the initial sketches for a cover, she would start her paintings by drawing everything in oil with a small brush.

Next, she established the color values, where the darkest, middle tones, and lightest areas would be. Then she would add the general colors in a light oil wash.

Afterward, the real painting began as Gignilliat developed the faces and hands, giving them more color and form. This eventually resulted in a beautiful picture which was then made into a book cover.

7. Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg‘s fine art is considered to be contemporary realism. He excels at depicting emotional scenes,

Ginsburg’s book covers are more romantic than sensual. The edges of his subjects blur into the background,

While Ginsburg could display the human body in an alluring way, his covers were rarely gratuitous.

He has a compassionate eye that highlights the humanity of his subjects. Like H. Tom Hall, Ginsburg has a talent for empathetically painting people of diverse heritages.

Ginsburg’s style influenced many artists of Avon covers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

8. Morgan Kane

No one could capture the ornate, intricate patterns of fabrics as Morgan Kane could.

Whether presenting a lacy gown, a multi-textured cape, or a mosaic of hues on a blanket, Kane can make one can feel the material just as well as one sees it.

In contrast, he depicted human forms in a much softer manner. The difference between the grounded beauty of his subjects against ornate backgrounds, textiles, or flowers makes for a visual treat.

9. Robert A. Maguire

Robert A. Maguire was another of the many illustrators who created lurid pulp covers. While his pulp art was highly sexualized, his romance covers are more sedate.

An emotional connection is the focus, not sex. The faces of Maguire’s females are delicate, with thickly-lashed eyes and rosebud lips.

Maguire played light and dark tones against each other in an enchanting manner. His method is not surreal nor hyperreal. Instead, it is idealized unrealism, approaching the imagined perfection of a cartoon.

Like Elaine Duillo, Maguire often placed his signature–“R. A. Maguire”–as close to the bodies as possible, in the shade lighter than the background.

10. Roger Kastel

Famous for his movie posters, Roger Kastel‘s romance style shares similarities with that of Maguire & most significantly, Max Ginsburg.

Kastel favored a romantic, blurred technique instead of a precise, angular reality.

Kastel’s brushstrokes fused colors together, creating a hazy aura around the couples.

11. Walter & Marie Popp

Walter and Marie Popp designed Regency, Gothic, and bodice ripper covers. Each genre had its own method to it.

The Gothics were shrouded in darkness and mist.

Regencies were marked with a sweet, crisp quality.

For the historical romance covers, the Popps embraced sexy with their curvaceous heroines and muscular heroes.

The female faces look similar, as Walter often used his wife Marie, a model, as his muse. Their expressions are a variation of hers, from their full lips to their round eyes.

12. Victor Gadino

The great Victor Gadino‘s technique is masterful. His attention to fine detail is exquisite.

Note the musculature of the hero’s abdominal and pectorals, the lace on the hem of the heroine’s skirts, the silk pattern of pillows, and the heavy-lidded eyes in the hero’s lusty expression.

His use of jewel-tone colors results in covers that sparkle like precious gems.

More than any other artist since Elaine Duillo, Gadino’s art is typified by a carnal sensuality. His approach is hyperrealistic, with figures as close to perfection as the human eye can conceive.

13. Sharon Spiak

Sharon Spiak’s mentor, the Italian master artist, Pino Daeni, was a massive inspiration to her when she was his apprentice.

She painted in oils, creating an atmosphere of enchantment always backed by passion. Spiak’s paintings for romance novels capture sensuality, beauty, and fantasy by captivating the viewer in the intimacy of the moment.

Her approach differs from cover to cover. There is always a delicacy to the females’ features and a lovely interplay of pastels against darker tones.

14. John Ennis

John Ennis utilizes a “Disney Princess” method of painting, as his human images are beautiful but unrealistic. His covers have a fanciful, almost cartoon-like, fairy-tale quality. His work is based more on fantasy than romanticism.

Ennis played around with shades of light and contrasting hues, resulting in striking covers that made him a natural fit for Zebra.

If one notes the texture of the heroines’ hair, one can see individual strands and curls against blocks of solid color.

Like Franco Accornero, John Ennis was an early innovator of digital artwork.

15. Franco Accornero

Franco Accornero, also known as “Franco,” pioneered computerized art design. Due to his fascination with the capabilities of technology, Franco always pushed boundaries.

Before he transitioned to digital artwork in the 1990s, Franco worked primarily in oils.

As an independent freelance artist, he was responsible for all cover design elements, from setting up the scene to models, costumes, and props. He arranged various poses with different lighting arrangements.

His fine director’s eye created a dramatic and flattering balance of light and shadow.

Franco would use a wind machine in the photo sessions to get that flowing hair look.

16. Renato Aime

Renato Aime worked primarily in oils in addition to other mediums. He frequently designed covers for Dorchester and Kensington, two publishing houses that hired artists with an eye for the outlandish.

Aime captured the curvaceous female forms in contrast against the more rigid muscles of the males in a most pleasing way.

While Aime’s technique is recognizable as his own, it does bear some resemblance to his fellow Italian illustrators. One can see similarities to the covers of Pino Daeni and Franceso Accornero. Note the blending of colors and the identifiable strokes.

17. Melissa Duillo-Gallo

Melissa Duillo-Gallo, daughter of artists John and Elaine Duillo, was influenced by both her parents, her mother’s romance covers in particular.

Elaine’s work is titillating and highly elaborate. Melissa’s art tends to the sweeter side with more playful emotions. Duillo-Gallo applied flamboyantly bright colors, exemplifying the feel of the 1980s and 1980s.

After she married, Melissa signed her covers as Gallo, not Duillo. Unlike her mother, she usually placed her signature away from the bodies.

Melissa also used less eyeshadow than her mother did, which is saying something!

18. Gregg Gulbronson

Gregg Gulbronson utilized a distinctive approach, making his covers both breathtaking and easy to recognize. Romance, sexuality, fantasy, and reality all meld together in Gulbronson’s art.

Gulbronson used spraying/airbrushing techniques, which made for a striking and individualized look.

Enveloped in a romantic haze, the couples in clinches are surrounded by a dreamy ambiance. The figures seem to glow as the light plays against their hair, skin, and clothes.

19. Ray Kursar

Ray Kursar was yet another artist with a noticeable style. His paintings look more like drawings. Kursar worked with multiple mediums to create his illustrations, such as pastels and watercolors.

He employed various elements to make his covers stand out: emphasis on bright colors, flowers, animals, and fabrics.

Hair is constantly flowing in the wind, while the locks of waves and curls are well-defined.

20. James Griffin

James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.

The late-era clinches are made digitally and approach hyperrealism.

Griffin’s illustrations of the “classic” era are more dramatic, with windswept hair and passionate embraces. The couples are shown leaning back or lying down, rarely standing straight up.

His graceful aesthetic resulted in book covers that emotionally resonated with the romance reader.

21. Charles Geer

Charles Geer might be known to readers of children’s books published from the 1960s to the 1980s–two of which he wrote himself.

Geer’s style is so distinct. There is much going on in his images, whether sketches or paintings.

His attention to the tiniest of subjects amazes the eye. He used uniform brush strokes to create spectacular backgrounds, intricate curls in the hair, or elaborate textures in clothing. The bright pigments twinkle like stars against their darker settings.

Geer’s scenes appear dream-like but are far more memorable.

Final Thoughts on Cover Artists

Sweet Savage Flame believes it’s essential to keep the memory of these skilled cover illustrators and their works alive.

Hopefully, by familiarizing yourself with these artists’ techniques, you’ll quickly identify their covers on sight. No more having to confirm with a signature!

Your Opinion

Do you think this a fair compilation of some best romance cover artists? Who are your favorite old-school illustrators?

Is there an artist you think we should have placed on this list but missing? What are your thoughts on painted versus digital cover art?

Please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance!

Midnight angel kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review
Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg, Fredericka Ribes
Book Series: Stokehurst #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 373
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Lisa KleypasMidnight Angel is the predecessor to the only one of her novels I’ve been unable to finish, Prince of Dreams. I started Prince of Dreams, not knowing it was a sequel; the Elaine Duillo stepback cover lured me in.

I should have started with this one, which features a Max Ginsburg tip-in illustration, as this is by far the better romance.

The Plot

The story opens with Lady Anastasia Kaptereva. She is in jail, sentenced to hang for a murder she did not commit. Anastasia doesn’t have any recollection of the event.

She flees Russia for exile to England, where under an assumed name, she lands employment as a governess to young Lady Emma Stokehurst.

The hero Luke, Lord Stokehurst, is unique in that he’s disabled, missing a hand, with a hook in its place. He is a widower whose wife died in a fire. And he’s vowed never to love again.

His 12-year-old daughter Emma is in need of care. Emma is the heroine in Prince of Dreams, where she is paired off with Tasia’s annoying brute of a cousin Nikolas Angelovsky. He was such an awful hero; I DNF’d that book. Unthinkable for a Kleypas, but he rubbed me the wrong way. Strange, as he’s not so terrible here in Midnight Angel.

midnight angel lisa kleypas
Midnight Angel, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1995, Max Ginsburg cover art, John De Salvo model

Luke is about 15 years older than Tasia (she’s 18; he’s 34). Luke is “tortured” and domineering, not a thoughtfully sensitive but strong quasi-beta male with a cream-puff interior. The power dynamics may be off-putting to some. I didn’t mind.

When Tasia and Lucas get together, the steam factor is hot. Kleypas writes excellent love scenes, which is why the book was enjoyable.

The plot was a bit of a kitchen-sink affair, as there are many factors thrown in: the Gothic aura, amnesia, murder, a nasty other woman, and lots of drama. Plus, there are evil baddies, a tiger, and some paranormal factors. The supernatural stuff is further explored in Prince of Dreams.

My Opinion

Midnight Angel was good, better than its follow-up, but not anything exceptional. If you’ve read my reviews, you know where I stand on the grieving widowers trope, but it was mostly tolerable here. Mostly.

Some aspects were rushed, making my rating for this book drop a few percentage points. It’s melodramatic and cheesy at times. Then again, I don’t mind cheesy.

I liked this historical overall, but I don’t think it’s for every reader. Fans of Kleypas’ romances written in the 20th century–particularly her Hathaway and Ravenel series–probably will not have a good time as I did with Midnight Angel.

The ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are relatively low for a Kleypas romance, with a considerable number of 1 or 2-star reviews.

That didn’t sway my opinion, as I enjoy Kleypas’ 1990s to early 2000s romances more than her “modern” books.

Final Analysis of Midnight Angel

Historical romance is a broad genre and Lisa Kleypas’ is a rare author with broad genre appeal. Midnight Angel is a solid, if not stellar, romance. Tasia and Lord Stokehurst are an unlikely couple, but their story is full of passion, intrigue, and danger.

Opinions are mixed about this one, so your mileage may vary. As for me, while I won’t be returning to Midnight Angel, I am glad I read it.

3.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis

A noblewoman of frail beauty and exotic mystery fakes her own death to escape the gallows. And now she must flee. In disguise and under a false identity, she finds unexpected sanctuary in the arms of a handsome and arrogant yet gallant British lord—who must defy society to keep her safe . . . and overcome a tragic past to claim her as his own.

MIDNIGHT ANGEL by LISA KLEYPAS
surrender in scarlet attard

Covers of the Week #74: Peter Attard

Artist: Peter Attard

Peter Attard created contemporary category and historical covers for publishers such as Avon, Dorchester, Bantam, and Mills & Boon/ Harlequin. His artwork is peak 1980s and 1990s romance.

There are several men in the field of arts with the name Attard, so it was difficult to find information on this talented artist. This particular gentleman hails from Australia and worked in New York during his heyday as a paperback illustrator.

Attard’s vocation inspired his nephew, Mark Attard, to become a painter. Today, the latter is a successful musician/artist.

Peter Attard’s style is reminiscent of some of his contemporaries, such as George A. Bush and Ray Olivere, invoking a fantastical fairy-tale quality to his clinches, as opposed to realism or extreme sensuality. His use of bright colors and pastels gives his images an eye-catching appeal.

The Covers

Sweet Savage Flame’s Covers of the Week for Monday, October 17, 2022, to October 23, 2022, shows off four charming and lovely romance covers painted by Peter Attard.

Three of these illustrations are similar in looks and pose, one isn’t. Have fun guessing which! 😛

Surrender in Scarlet, original image
river of love bittner

Historical Romance Review: River of Love by Rosanne Bittner

book review historical romance
River of Love by F. Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny #3
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 413
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: River of Love by Rosanne Bittner

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of River of Love, book #3 in the “Savage Destiny” series by Rosanne Bittner.

River of Love begins in 1853. Abigail Trent Monroe, her husband “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, and their three children, son Little Rock, and daughters Blue Sky and Young Girl, are living in Colorado. Abbie is also expecting a fourth child.

Happiness, however, will continue to elude the Monroes, as trouble will find them from multiple sources.

The Plot

Part One of River of Love

The first of these troubles is Zeke’s half-brother, Red Eagle. Red Eagle is an alcoholic, and one day he sells his wife, Yellow Moon, to a white outlaw, Nick Trapper, for whiskey.

Trapper and his men repeatedly rape Yellow Moon, kill her and Red Eagle’s son, Laughing Boy, and sell Yellow Moon into prostitution.

Red Eagle begs Zeke to find her. He is especially motivated when he learns that Trapper’s partner is the infamous female outlaw “Lady Z,” aka Dancing Moon. She is Zeke’s former lover who has a history of terrorizing the Monroe family.

Zeke will find “Lady Z” in this book, but once again, won’t kill her, and again, he will regret that decision.

The second source of trouble for the Monroes is the U.S. government and white settlers, whose westward migration causes trouble for Zeke and Abbie, their Cheyenne brethren, and all Indian tribes.

Part Two Of River of Love

While searching for Yellow Moon, Zeke encounters two women who will play a role in his life. They are: Bonita “Bonnie” Beaker, a missionary who Zeke saves from outlaws and who later falls in love with him; and Anna Gale, a prostitute-turned-madam.

Bonnie and her future husband and Anna help Zeke and Abbie when they have issues.

In other developments, Danny, Zeke’s white half-brother, falls in love with and marries a woman, Emily Epcott. Their marriage, however, is not a happy one, and Danny has a brief affair with an Indian woman. Danny and Emily reconcile and have a child later.

By the end of the book, Zeke and Abbie are parents of seven children. There is their son, Little Rock, who later takes the name Wolf’s Blood. He is the only one of the Monroe children who refuses to be baptized and given a white name. Two other sons, Jeremy and Jason, and daughters Margaret, LeeAnn, Ellen, and Lillian round out the family.

For a time, Zeke and Abbie are happy. But, as always, fate and society have other plans.

river of love by rosanne bittner

Upside

As always, Ms. Bittner’s writing is full and emotional. It’s hard to come up with different ways to say how exceptional Ms. Bittner’s writing is.

Downside

The only downside was the pain I felt for Zeke, Abbie, and some other characters since they were treated so poorly by society.

Sex

Ms. Bittner’s love scenes were a little hotter this time around, but she will never be accused of writing erotica.

Violence

Ms. Bittner writes very violent scenes for a romance novel, and the pattern continues in River of Love: multiple scenes of assault, battery, and killings, which are mildly graphic.

river of love bittner

Bottom Line On River of Love

No author I’ve read pushes my emotional buttons–good and bad–the way Rosanne Bittner does with the “Savage Destiny” series. River of Love is just one more shining example of that.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis

Abigail Monroe had been pierced by an arrow as a young girl…and pierced even more deeply by the love of a half-breed Cheyenne brave named Lone Eagle. But now Abigail and Lone Eagle could lose everything–and each other. Trouble was coming across the Plains to challenge them and test their love. No longer could they hide in a paradise of their own making. Yet even as the hardships of frontier life grew, nothing could diminish their passion. Together they would tight to forge a dynasty In a harsh, unyielding wilderness and fulfill their daring dreams. 

RIVER OF LOVE by ROSANNE BITTNER
hearts-aflame-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hearts Aflame is a notable Johanna Lindsey historical romance for a few reasons.

Back in June 1987, John Le Carre, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Robert Ludlum, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek were on the NY Times Weekly Bestseller list for paperbacks. Also in the top ten? Jude Deveraux’s The Raider and Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame at #3.

Spy thrillers, mysteries, science & women’s fiction were always big hits, but for many years, it was hard to see more than one romance novel numbering near the top. With her 14th book, Lindsey was on a roll, writing blockbuster romance after blockbuster romance.

Readers of this blog and fans of Lindsey might be familiar with Hearts Aflame, as it contains two hallmarks of her books. First (no longer was Robert McGinnis illustrating) was “The Queen of Romance Covers” herself, Elaine Duillo painting the artwork.

Second, this book featured romance supermodel Fabio posing for the clinch. This was one of–if not the–first romance front cover for the Italian-born hunk.

The Background

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey is the sequel to her third book, the bodice ripper Fires of Winter. In it, the beautiful Welsh Lady Brenna finds her life torn asunder when Vikings raid her home.

They kill all the men and take the women captive. Brenna is given as a prize to the Viking chief’s son, Garrick.

After a very rocky beginning, Garrick and Brenna find love together.

The heroine of Hearts Aflame, Kristen, is their daughter. She is as fierce and strong as both her parents.

The Plot

With her many Viking brothers and cousins, young Kristen has always desired an adventure as they claimed to have experienced. In search of action, she stows away on their raiding ship.

The raid is a failure when the Vikings are beaten and taken hostage by the Saxons, led by the arrogant Thane Royce.

Kristen is dressed as a male, and her kinsmen guard her true identity. But soon, the nature of her sex is discovered by Royce. Royce forces her to serve as his personal house slave. He places Kristen in chains when she refuses and finds her will is unbreakable.

From there on, the relationship between Royce and Kristen is a power play of master and slave, captor and captive, man and woman.

Kristen is not a simpering dame, as her actions prove. Although Royce is a powerful leader and tries to master her, it’s she who proves to be the real mistress.

Speaking of mistresses, Royce has one; a rare instance in a Lindsey romance where the hero beds the other woman. But no fear, her simpering nature proves no match for Kristen’s fierce one.

Some evildoers would see Kristen and Royce fall, but Royce shouldn’t worry when Kristen is on his side. She has no qualms about threatening Saxon lords and ladies and can back up her words with fighting skills.

Of course, Kristen and her fellow Vikings are to be avenged by her people, and this leads to a dramatic ending where her parents show up to save them.

Final Analysis of Hearts Aflame

Hearts Aflame is a solid Johanna Lindsey romance, perhaps not in my personal top-tier, but it still was a blast to read.

Kirsten has all the warrior skills of her mother, with her father’s stubborn temper.

Royce is sexy enough, even though Kirsten steals the show. But it’s fun to imagine him looking like Fabio since he was the first Lindsey hero painted by Elaine Duillo.

Fans of Kirsten’s older brother, Selig, will be happy to read his story in Surrender, My Love, the conclusion to Lindsey’s “Haardrad Viking Trilogy.”

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

Kristen Haardrad met the icy fury in her captor’s crystal-green gaze with defiance. She was the prisoner of Royce of Wyndhurst, but his slave she’d never be. This powerful Saxon lord had at last met his match in the Viking beauty – his equal in pride, in strength…and in the fierce, hot hunger of insatiable desire. But Kristen could not know the torment that divided his soul; how he ached to hold her soft, supple body, thirsted for the ringing joy of her laughter – yet hated her for an ancient crime that was not her own.

But her golden loveliness drives him mad with desire, her fiery eyes taunting him, compelling him to claim her. Until, in wordless surrender, they cast aside the shackles of doubt and distrust to unite forever in the searing promise of all-consuming love.

HEARTS AFLAME by JOHANNA LINDSEY

Links

PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: JUNE 7, 1987

List Fiction:

  • 1 A PERFECT SPY, by John le Carre. (Bantam, $4.95.) The tale of a British secret agent and his father, a flamboyant con man.
  • 2 BARRIER ISLAND, by John D. MacDonald. (Fawcett, $4.50.) One man’s effort to thwart a multimillion-dollar land swindle.
  • 3 * HEARTS AFLAME, by Johanna Lindsey. (Avon, $3.95.) A beautiful captive becomes the captor of a handsome thane in the age of the Vikings.
  • 4 ACT OF WILL, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Bantam, $4.95.) Three generations of talented, ambitious women in England and New York.
  • 5 THE GOOD MOTHER, by Sue Miller. (Dell, $4.95.) A woman’s attachment to her daughter becomes a consuming passion.
  • 6 TAMING A SEA-HORSE, by Robert B. Parker. (Dell, $4.50.) Spenser tracks a young woman through the seamy byways of a pleasure empire.
  • 7 THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Del Rey/Ballantine, $4.95.) Mankind’s first encounter with life in a paradisaical world.
  • 8 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, by Robert Ludlum. (Bantam, $4.95.) A plot to seize Hong Kong and bring China into conflict with the West.
  • 9 THE RAIDER, by Jude Deveraux. (Pocket, $3.95.) Rebels, Red Coats, and love in colonial New England.
  • 10 DREAMS OF THE RAVEN, by Carmen Carter. (Pocket, $3.50.) In this Star Trek novel, Captain Kirk faces a nightmarish enemy. 

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,
lone star surrender

Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

historical romance review
Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch, a standalone Zebra historical romance.

The Plot

Part 1 of Lone Star Surrender

Lone Star Surrender starts in Texas, circa 1885. Tara Winslow, the heroine, has come southwest from St. Louis to spend the summer with her father, Terrance, a newspaper publisher. She hasn’t seen him in three years.

Tara had been living in St. Louis with her grandfather, Ryan O’Donnovan, a wealthy businessman, and her mother, Libby. Terrance and Libby are separated, in large part because of her inability (or unwillingness) to stand up to her father. Tara is also engaged, unhappily, to Joseph Rutherford, one of Ryan’s business associates.

On Tara’s first day in Texas, she witnesses a murder, and is rescued by Sloane Prescott.

She meets Sloane again at the home of her friend, Julia Russel, the daughter of Merrick Russel, Sloane’s “boss.”

Sloane works for Russel as his head wrangler at Russel’s ranch, the Diamond R. Sloane isn’t working for Russel because he needs to. He has other reasons for working there: to expose Merrick as a criminal. He was also hired by Ryan and Joseph, who are investors in the Diamond R and are concerned with illegal activities they believe Merrick is involved in.

Julia wants Tara to work with Sloane to teach him manners so Julia can invite him to a dance. Unbeknownst to Julia, Tara and Sloane have a raging attraction to each other and will become lovers.

As time goes on, Tara discovers Sloane’s secrets, they marry–after she gets into trouble–and she finds out a secret he doesn’t know.

Merrick tries to kill Tara, and nearly succeeds, but she survives. Merrick later dies trying to flee Sloane after Merrick confesses his misdeeds.

Part 2 of Lone Star Surrender

After Merrick’s death, Tara thinks she and Sloane will have a clear path to happiness. She would be wrong.

Ryan and Joseph show up in Texas and forcibly take her back to St. Louis, where Ryan plans to marry her off to Joseph.

Upon hearing of her abduction, Sloane and Terrance head for St. Louis. Sloane goes to give his report and get Tara back, and Terrance to try to reconcile with Libby. Both Sloane and Terrance succeed in their endeavors to reunite with their loves.

Although, Sloane faces some token resistance from Joseph, who shows his true colors: yellow. To put it another way, Sloane was more of a man when he was born than Joseph is now.

In the end, Tara and Sloane, with Libby and Terrance–and Ryan–decide to go to Texas. The two couples have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

When she writes under the names Carol Finch and Gina Robins, Connie Feddersen has a template she uses for her books. That template: feisty, spirited heroines, bad-boys-but-good-men heroes, and lots of humor. All of these are on display in Lone Star Surrender.

Tara and Sloane are a very well-matched couple. Their chemistry jumps off the pages and sizzles throughout the book. They are a likeable pair and the story is well-plotted and engaging. The romantic suspense element is strong, and there is a twist at the end of that part of the book.

Ms. Finch goes into her characters’ emotions and gives both of them free rein to be who they are.

I never felt as if I was reading a book; I felt like I was watching their lives in front of me, and those are the kind of books I really enjoy.

I also like the way Ms. Finch uses humor in her books. While Lone Star Surrender isn’t as funny as Beloved Betrayal–which was hilarious–there are a lot of funny moments here, especially toward the end.

Way too many romance novels have an ultra-serious tone to them. It’s a romance novel, authors! Humor is a much-underutilized feature in romance novels.

The Downside

If I had to nitpick, it would be that Ms. Finch tends to be a little hero and heroine heavy in her writing. Meaning she focuses almost entirely on her main characters.

The supporting cast in her books serves two purposes: to move storylines along and to act as foils for the protagonists. I find it nice sometimes when supporting characters have scenes when the hero and heroine aren’t in them.

Sex

Ms. Finch’s love scenes focus more on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it. There are lots of purple prose and spiritual New Age writing about the deed.

Violence

Although people draw guns in the book, no one fires them. There are several scenes of assault and battery. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on The Book

Readers who like humor and romance with high-spirited heroines and strong heroes will find lots to like in Carol Finch’s Lone Star Surrender.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
When the rugged cowboy found a gorgeous, unconscious woman and her dead companion along a Texas dirt road, he knew he had to try everything to save the unlucky lady. He spirited her off to his mountain shack, gave her a potion to deaden the pain, and slashed away her bloody bodice to expose the wound. But when the virile horseman saw only her creamy, flawless flesh, he realized the blood was not hers — and that the vulnerable female needed saving only from himself!

THE HEAT OF THE DAY
When golden-haired Tara Winslow awoke in he father’s canyon retreat, she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten there. What was even more baffling were the sensual dreams, that plagued her every waking moment. As she fantasized a muscular Texas lover showing her the myriad mysteries of pleasure, the innocent adventuress realized it was too vivid to not be true! Now that she knew she’d been with the only man who could win her heart, the determined beauty vowed he’d track him down and enslave him forever with the wild rapture of her Lone Star Surrender.

Lonestar Surrender by Carol Finch

autumn romance cover

Covers of the Week #72: Autumn Leaves

autumn romance cover

Theme: Autumn Leaves on Romance Covers

The brilliant colors of Autumn leaves make for stunning backdrops to old-school romance covers. The men and women encircled by jewel tones of topaz, amethyst, garnet, and fire opals radiate with a dazzling luster.

The onset of Fall is Spring’s promise to come to fruition. Harvest time sees humanity’s labor manifest as a plentiful bounty.

At Halloween, we embrace our inner child and take delight in our imaginations. Come Thanksgiving, we gather to feast with our loved ones in appreciation of what we hold dear.

In one final burst of beauty, nature reveals her most dynamic hues before descending into cold, gray slumber.

The Covers

We’re a bit over a week late for the Autumnal Equinox. So for our Covers of the Week starting Monday, October 3, 2022, until Sunday, October 9, 2022, let’s welcome Fall with these vibrant Autumn romance covers displaying couples in passionate embraces.

(From left to right, top to bottom🙂
Autumn Ecstasy, Pamela K. Forrest, Zebra, 1990, Renato Aime cover art
Rebellious Desire, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books, 1986, cover artist TBD
The Fire in Autumn, Delia Parr, Diamond, 1996, Robert Sabin cover art
Autumn’s Tender Fire, April Ashmore, Zebra, 1992, Renato Aime

Your Opinion

What do you think about our choices for the Covers of the Week? Do you enjoy Autumn time? What is your favorite season?

As always, please drop a comment and let’s talk romance.

tradewinds

Covers of the Week #71

plain romance ocvers

Theme: Plain Romance Covers with No Clinch Embraces

How do you feel about plain romance covers? By 1990, a hot trend for some elite romance authors was a book with a more basic cover design. There was no couple embracing, not even a solo image. Perhaps the front would display a flower or a watch. It might have embossed foil lettering or a fancy texture.

Many more romances would have stepback covers. These combined a simple outer image with an interior clinch illustration.

Certainly, by the end of the decade, it was just as probable to find a romance novel without a clinch cover as one with it.

Be it stepback, plain design, or a clinch hidden on the back of the book, readers were picking up paperbacks that downplayed the sexy aspect of romances.

The Covers

You know where Sweet Savage Flame stands on this issue. We love to see covers with painted human figures on them, as opposed to plain ones. However, sometimes the design style of romance covers with no people on them does work and looks fantastic.

For the week of Monday, September 26, 2022, to Sunday, October 2, our Covers of the Week features plain romance covers without couples or clinches.

my lady destiny

Covers of the Week #70

covers of the week

Artist: Charles Geer

Charles Geer might be known to readers of children’s books published from the 1960s to the 1980s–two of which he wrote himself.

To readers of romance novels, Geer’s beautiful cover art might look familiar if they are Georgette Heyer fans. The Avon paperback editions of her novels featured his stunning artwork.

Geer’s style is so distinct. There is so much going on in his images, whether sketches or paintings. His attention to detail amazes the eye. The color pops from the covers. His scenes appear dream-like yet more memorable.

The Covers

Covers of the Week #70, for the week of Monday, September 19, 2022, to Sunday, September 25, highlights the impressionistic stylings of cover artist Charles Geer.

Your Opinion

What’s your view about these Covers of the Week choices? Were you familiar with the artist? What do you think of Geer’s style?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

honeyed lies

Covers of the Week #69

Covers-of-the-Week-jon-paul

Artist: Jon Paul Ferrara

Jon Paul Ferrara is one of the most talented artists/photographers in the industry today. His covers appear regularly in the most select novels, particularly romance. Ferrara started his work in the 1990s for publishing houses such as Harlequin Historicals and Kensington’s Zebra imprints.

Ferrara studied his craft at the New York Academy of Fine Arts. He also attended the prestigious National Academy of Design.

Like Pino or Franco, Jon Paul Ferrera is widely known by his first–and (in this case) also middle–name, Jon Paul. He was one of the early innovators of digital covers. Jon Paul’s style has evolved over the years, but his signature is as noticeable as ever.

Since the fusion of digital, photography, and old-fashioned painting/illustration, he has been one of the most sought-out and popular cover artists.

Ferrara’s artwork has received more than 20 awards for excellence from the Romance Writers of America, often placing in two or more of the top ten positions.

Ever vigilant in expanding his horizons, Jon Paul pursues his fine art as well as his commercial ventures. Both are enjoyed by thousands of fans that visit his website every year.

The Covers

For our Covers of the Week for Monday, September 12, 2022, to Sunday, September 18, 2022, we’re highlighting the early romance covers designed by Jon Paul Ferrara.