Category Archives: Elaine Duillo

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!

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: , , , , , , , ,
defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 10 to 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that, with a few exceptions, were all fun reads. Many rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Usually, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, then make passionate love to them and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place, then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little interaction Ranulf and Reina have with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.

Reina

Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed.  Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice, not set it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If, like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model who’s always posing alongside Fabio (Lianna Loggins, I think), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and simply appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, have a blast reading about two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
Gentle Rogue duillo

Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #3
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Pirate Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 426
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey was her third entry in the Malory series.

Arguably it is her most popular book. After 30 years, it is still in print and read by many new-to-the-romance-genre readers.

Johanna Lindsey Mania

I first read Gentle Rogue eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know?

I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest release. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!

The day I saw the clerk stocking the shelves, I grabbed the first book from the top of the box, not caring that it had a tiny slit on the cover.

I was a bit disheartened because for a DuilloFabioLindsey outing, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was lackluster. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed.

When I saw Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I would be even more disappointed in the cover design. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, Once a Princess had a stepback with a floral font on the front. I actually preferred that weird, pointed sci-fi-looking type.

The “old” Duillo-Lindsey era (1987 to 1990) was over with Gentle Rogue.

gentle rogue spiak
Gentle Rogue, Avon re-issue, 2020, Sharon Spiak cover art

The Plot

Gentle Rogue starts hilariously. Georgina Anderson is in a grungy inn in a seedy part of London. She attempts to kill a cockroach on the wall by propelling food at it, fails, but doesn’t care so long as it’s out of sight.

As usual with a Lindsey book, things get ridiculous, so check your brain at the door. Just enjoy the ride.

Stuck in England after secretly traveling there to search for her long-lost love who’d abandoned her years before, the American Georgina and her companion, Mac, lack both funds connections. They are desperately looking for a way back home.

Mac signs them up to work their way home. Georgina disguises herself as a boy to obtain passage on The Maiden Anne.

Little does she know that the ship’s captain already knows she’s a female because: #1 He’s James Malory, so he has eyes.

And #2, he’d met her before at a tavern when she was dressed in her masculine garments. Thinking she was someone else, he picked her up, only to cop a feel of her boobies.

Hardly someone the so-called “connoisseur of women” would forget.

James has the time of his life as he slowly seduces Georgina–or George, as he lovingly calls her.

But the tables are turned on this love-’em-and-leave-’em rake as Georgina leaves him when they land in the Caribbean. One of her sea-faring brothers is there at the port and whisks her away to Connecticut.

Parts of this book run parallel to its precursor, Tender Rebel (which, for me, was so-so due to a dull-as-dishwater heroine). There is some word-for-word repetition of previous scenes (perhaps to pad the word count).

Unlike its predecessor, the heroine in Gentle Rogue is a delight. All the characters are a blast: James, Georgina, James’ droll and equally rakish brother Anthony, and best of all, Georgina’s five belligerent older brothers.

In a memorable scene, they all take turns beating James into a pulp before holding him and his crew prisoners.

Lindsey and her readers must have loved George’s brothers as I did. Three of the Anderson men feature as heroes in subsequent books of their own.

Final Analysis of Gentle Rogue

The title of the book is quite accurate. The hard-muscled ex-pirate James Malory is an unrepentant rogue, taking advantage of Georgina. He thoroughly disgraces her in front of her brothers, so they’re forced to wed.

James is a droll charmer, witty, and arrogant. The perfect hero.

My favorite Anderson brother was Warren. His book, The Magic of You, is my second favorite in the Malory-Anderson series. There, he meets his match with the much younger and very persistent Amy Malory.

Those two romances are the high points for me in the Malory-Anderson series, although Gentle Rogue is a wee better.

I enjoyed Gentle Rogue very much when I first read it.

I’ve grown to love it much more now that I picture James looking like another blond, green-eyed Englishman: a young Sean Bean!

sean bean
Sean Bean as James Malory. Grrrr…

Nothing against Fabio, he’s a legend, but he can’t be the hero of every romance from ’87 to ’95!

If you haven’t read Gentle Rogue, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s a romance classic.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she’ll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship’s irrepressible captain, James Mallory.

The black sheep of a proud and tempestuous family, the handsome ex-pirate once swore no woman alive could entice him into matrimony. But on the high seas his resolve will be weakened by an unrestrained passion and by the high-spirited beauty whose love of freedom and adventure rivals his own.

GENTLE ROGUE by JOHANNA LINDSEY
And Gold Was Ours duillo

Historical Romance Review: And Gold Was Ours by Rebecca Brandewyne

Synopsis:

In faraway Spain Aurora’s fortune was foretold –the exile from the home of her aristocratic ancestors, the journey to the steaming jungles of Peru, and at last, the love of a fiery dark man.

Now on a plantation haunted by a tale of lost love and hidden gold, the raven-tressed beauty awaits the swordsman and warrior she has seen in her dreams. Will he come-and protect her from the enemies that seek to destroy her? Will he love her with the promised passion-wilder than the tropic storms and brighter than the most precious treasure?

AND GOLD WAS OURS by REBECCA BRANDEWYNE

Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and the Setup

And Gold Was Ours is a sequel to Rebecca Brandewyne‘s Love, Cherish Me. However, I’d consider this more of a companion piece. The hero, Esteban, is the cousin to Wolf (Lobo), the male protagonist from Love Cherish, Me. Wolf’s story takes place in Texas, USA. Esteban’s begins in Spain and ends in Peru. While both novels have Brandewyne’s hallmark baroque-gothic atmosphere, And Gold Was Ours is not as dark and emotional as its predecessor.

What this romance does have are swashbuckling intrigue and a unique setting. It also employs a supernatural element.

Our story begins in Spain, sometime in the mid-19th century, under the reign of Isabel II. The book opens with a swordfight between Esteban and his evil stepfather. Although Esteban has right on his side, after he kills his stepfather, his wicked stepbrother vows revenge. So Esteban is forced to leave everything behind and flee to the New World.

Aurora Leila, also in Spain, has a fortune teller foresee her future. She is told that she’ll have to leave her home for faraway lands. There, she will find a love that has awaited her for eternity. While Aurora scoffs at the seer, the woman is correct. Some misadventures with a lusty nun occur while Aurora is in a convent. Like Esteban, Aurora must leave her birthplace behind. She travels thousands of miles away to Peru.

The Plot

It takes some time for the love story to begin, as Brandewyne puts the players into their starting places.

When Esteban and Aurora meet in South America, it’s as if they’ve known each other for all time. A bond exists between them, which seems to have existed since time primordial. Theirs is a fated love, one passionate and thrilling.

There are villains aplenty and crazy adventures along the way as they fall in love in the jungles of Peru. Danger lurks as enemies compete for land. A search for legendary ancient treasure leads to mortal peril.

Midway through the book, Esteban and Aurora take a side trip to Texas. They share happy moments with Storm, Lobo, and their son, Chance. If you’ve read Love Cherish Me, this part hits hard in the feels. This was a brief halcyon period for Storm and Lobo before tragedy struck.

Then it’s back to Peru for Esteban and Aurora, who must overcome scheming antagonists.

And unfortunately, we encounter Esteban’s 180-degree heel-turn. He starts out as a dashing, romantic character and then, out of nowhere, turns into a jealous stalker. It was out of place and made Esteban less likable.

Meanwhile, Aurora has visions of the two of them in times past. She sees images from ancient Egypt to Viking lands and other eras long ago when she and Esteban had loved each other. Through forces of fate, they were forever being separated.

Is their love doomed to fail in this time and place as well?

and gold was ours
And Gold Was Ours, Leisure/ Dorchester reissue, 1999, Lina Levy cover art

Final Analysis of And Gold Was Ours

I didn’t particularly appreciate Esteban’s personality transplant, how became an insecure stalker mid-way through. There was no reason for him to mistrust Aurora, who was totally devoted to him.

While I enjoyed And Gold Was Ours as it had its adventurous moments, it pales compared to Love Cherish, Me. That book was far grander in scope and emotional depth.

I didn’t expect the paranormal elements, although they added a unique twist to the plot. The prose is at times overwrought and very florid, typical of Brandewyne’s style. The love scenes are euphemistically erotic.

And Gold Was Ours started a little slow-paced and gets too wordy in certain sections. It was not one of my favorites by Rebecca Brandewyne, but it’s not the worst book by any means.

File this under the “I enjoyed it very much but didn’t love it” category. Esteban’s misplaced jealousy aside, for the most part, it was a compelling read.

3.63 stars

silver angel johanna lindsey books

Covers of the Week #40

Theme: Desert and Harem Covers

This week’s theme takes us to the Middle East for showing off some glorious harem and desert romance covers.

There’s something alluring about the African Sahara and Arabian deserts. They hold the allure of mystery and romance. The endless miles of sand, the ever-shifting dunes. A sheik takes a beautiful heroine captive and takes her to an oasis.

Whether it be a fantasy of being swept away by the leader of a caravan tribe or taken into a sheik’s private harem of one, passionate clinch covers exist for them all.

For the week of Monday, January 10, 2022, to Sunday, January 16, 2022, our latest Covers of the Week highlights the covers of four desert and harem romances set in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern Covers (from Left to Right, Top to Bottom):

Desert Heat, Evelyn Rogers, Zebra, 1993, Robert Sabin cover art;
Harem, Diane Carey, Signet, 1986, Pino cover art;
Silver Angel, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1988, Elaine Duillo cover art;
Casablanca Intrigue, Clarissa Ross, Warner, 1979, H. Tom Hall cover art

Angel In Scarlet duillo

Historical Romance Review: Angel in Scarlet by Jennifer Wilde

Synopsis:

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

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

ANGEL IN SCARLET by JENNIFER WILDE

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Angel In Scarlet

Jennifer Wilde, aka Mr. Thomas E. Huff, wrote a few bodice rippers before writing romances that weren’t bodice rippers but not quite traditional romances either.

Angel In Scarlet isn’t a bodice ripper. It’s a Georgian-Era chick-lit. This is a hard one to categorize. It’s not just a romance, but more of a heroine’s journey through life and her relationships with several men she meets along the way.

The Plot

Angel in Scarlet begins when our heroine Angela Howard is a child. At twelve years old, she meets Hugh, the man who will haunt her for her entire life. They have a strange first meeting: she’s a peeping Tom trying to catch an eyeful of some action, when Hugh, who’s 16, discovers her then gives her a spanking as a discipline!

Angela grows up with her cruel sisters and mother. Poor Angie, she’s so unattractive with her rich, chestnut hair, violet-gray eyes, and enormous boobies. Who would ever love her?

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

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

Highlight to View Spoilers Below

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

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

(Highlight the white area below to read spoilers.)

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

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

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

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

Let’s Get It On

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

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

ANGEL IN SCARLET

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

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

Final Analysis of Angel in Scarlet

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

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

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

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

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

3.88 stars

outlaw hearts duillo

Covers of the Week #35

Theme: Mystery Blond Cover Model

For years his face on romance novels has mesmerized me.

Okay, maybe it’s the face plus the terrific, full head of hair. I’ve seen this man pictured on occasion as a brunet or with black hair. Most of the time, though, he’s blond, which I believe is his natural color. He’s one of the rare romance cover models who looks fantastic that way. This dude probably did shampoo advertisements in his day. He could have been a tv anchorman in the 1980s!

He was a prolific model from the 1980s to the early 1990s. I’ve seen him on lots of category and historical romance covers. The artists who painted his image most frequently were Ron Lesser, Elaine Gignilliat, and Elaine Duillo, who had a great rapport with her models.

I have a Pinterest page dedicated to this guy, with over 35 covers that I’m confident depict his image.

Who is he?

The Covers

For the week of Monday, December 6, 2021, to Sunday, December 12, 2021, I’ve chosen a selection of category and historical romances illustrated by big-name authors, featuring a mysterious male cover model whose name I’ve yet to discover.

If any of our readers have any idea who he is, I would love to know!

outlaw hearts duillo
Zoomed in portion of The Outlaw Hearts, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner, 1986, Elaine Duillo cover art
Witch

Covers of the Week #29

Theme: Gothic Covers for Halloween

Behold the Halloween season! The beauty of autumn is transforming into a period of decay. The leaves on the trees have changed color–if they remain at all–on the dark, skeletal tree branches. A damp coldness lingers in the air. What is that strange light flickering in an attic window? Who–or what–is making those slow, creaking noises that emanate from an empty room?

Whether a haunted plantation in the humid American South, an ominous-looking old house in the North East, a decrepit manor in Cornwall, or a crumbling chateau in the mountains of Europe, Gothic romances are placed in contradictorily romantic yet scary settings.

Gothic romances hold an important place in the annals of the romance genre, with dark, brooding heroes, strong-willed heroines, and eerie covers illustrated by master artists.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, October 25, 2021, culminating on Halloween Day, Sunday, October 31, 2021, let’s delight–and take fright–in these creepy Gothic romance covers!

passion wild and free duillo

Historical Romance Review: Passions Wild and Free by Janelle Taylor

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Synopsis:

MISCHIEVOUS VIXEN

After seeing her home and family destroyed by the cruel and hateful Epson gang, Randee Hollis swore revenge. The feisty young woman knew that she couldn’t do the nasty job alone — she needed one good man to help her stop the murderous villains. So when Randee literally ran into the black-clad stranger, she knew she’d found the perfect helpmate. He was strong and brave and met all of her requirements for a gunslinger … but the virile stranger offered something more. Every time Randee looked into his light blue eyes she felt a longing in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to run her fingers through his sleek ebony hair, caress his bronzed skin and know what it would be like to spend the night wrapped up in his warm embrace …

TANTALIZING ROGUE

Marsh Logan had his own reasons for wanting to help the flaxen haired beauty find revenge. But after spending sometime alone with Randee, he lost all desire for anything but the feel of her body next to his. Marsh would sacrifice his very soul for a chance to kiss away all of Randee’s troubles, to excite her until she forgot of her pain. All he wanted was to prove that he was the man who could make her happy, that he could love her like no other and unleash her sleeping PASSIONS WILD AND FREE

PASSIONS WILD AND FREE by JANELLE TAYLOR
Passions Wild and Free, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1988, Elaine Duillo cover art

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Passions Wild and Free, book #2 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

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.

Randee runs into–literally–Marsh Logan, the hero of the book, and hires him to work with her, believing that he is a notorious gunfighter named the Durango Kid. He’s not, but he is good with a gun and has his own reasons for wanting to find and kill the Epson Gang. As they track the gang, we learn why Randee left her family in Kansas, and she and Marsh give in to their attraction and become lovers.

As they systematically dismantle the Epson Gang, Randee and Marsh come to realize that the gang isn’t just a ragtag group of outlaws, but rather part of a bigger plan, led by someone who wants money and power.

In the end, the gang is brought to justice or killed, as is the big boss of the operation. The real Durango Kid-who is Marsh’s younger brother-appears on the scene. Randee’s family issues in Kansas are resolved. Randee and Marsh have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Both Randee and Marsh are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor gives them depth and fills them in as real people. I liked the fact that Randee was a capable person in her own right and Marsh grew to respect her skills.

Downside

Passions Wild and Free is ostensibly a historical romantic suspense book. Mrs. Taylor only got one of the three right (The historical part). There is very little chemistry between Randee and Marsh, although they become lovers and adventure partners. There is also very little in the way of suspense; most of the suspense occurs “off-screen.”

I was also quite annoyed with Mrs. Taylor’s overuse of the word “cunning”, which she uses in every book she writes. I wanted to scream several times in the reading of the book: “Why didn’t you use a freakin’ thesaurus, Mrs. Taylor?” I found myself skipping pages because at times, Passions Wild and Free was simply boring.

One other thing: this book is said to be part of a six-book series called “Western Wind”. No character from the first book in the “series”, First Love, Wild Love, appears in Passions Wild and Free. The only thing the two books so far in the “series” have in common is that both are set in Texas, which is not, in my eyes, a connection that warrants a “series” label.

Sex

The love scenes are either mostly quick or typical Janelle Taylor romances. In other words, more focused on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it.

Violence

Most of the violence is “off-screen”. On-screen violence includes assault, battery, shootings, and killings. The violence is not graphic in any way.

Bottom Line on Passions Wild and Free

Randee and Marsh deserved better than what they got from Mrs. Taylor in Passions Wild and Free.

3 Stars

Secret Fire

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 416
Format: Audiobook
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

Secret Fire was the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read. It 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 stories I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.

The Plot

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.

Meanwhile, Lady Katherine St. John, the eldest daughter of an Earl, is enraged to find that her sister has decided to run off and elope. Although Katherine has a father and brother, it’s upon her dainty shoulders that familial responsibilities lie. She concocts a plan to exchange garments with a maid and search the London streets for her sister.

As she’s walking about, Dimitri’s carriage is stuck in traffic, and he happens to see Katherine. Although she’s short and rather plain with dull brown hair, there’s something about her that appeals to Dimitri. A prince who’s gotten anything and everything he’s ever wanted with a snap of his fingers, Dimitri sends a servant off to procure the woman for a night of passion. Katherine dismisses the man, but he won’t take no for an answer. Before Katherine knows what’s happening, she’s kidnapped and finds herself trapped in strange quarters. Her adamant refusals prompt Dimitri’s servant to ply her with”Spanish Fly” to make her willing for the prince’s touch.

When Dimitri finds out what’s been done, he’s disgusted at first. He was just looking for a quick tryst, not a sex marathon. Dimitri figures he’ll have to let his men have a go with her, as Spanish Fly makes a woman insatiable. Then he enters the room, and those thoughts go out the window. For while Katherine might not be the most beautiful woman in the world, she certainly is one of the most sensual visions he’s ever witnessed, naked on the bed and writhing in desire.

And so begins Secret Fire, with a night of pure ecstasy for both Katherine and Dimitri.

The Prince in Pursuit

However, the next day Katherine is back to her old self and threatens Dimitri’s servants with arrest, as she is the daughter of an Earl. No one believes her, of course. What would an Earl’s daughter have been doing roaming the London docks alone and wearing the clothes of a servant? Still, to prevent any scandal, his servant has the brilliant idea of locking Katherine in a chest and taking her with them to Russia.

When Katherine finds herself at sea, she demands to be returned. Dimitri had not expected to find her aboard the ship but is pleased to see her. Despite his hundreds of past amours, their night together was one of the best in memory, and the lady had been a virgin, to boot!

Dimitri pursues Katherine with an ardor he hadn’t imagined possible. Of course, Katherine rebuffs him at every turn. She’s no common trull but a lady deserving of respect. Dimitri ignores Katherine’s claims of nobility, mostly because he wants to believe that his Katya can be easily had. He knows he has to marry a noble Russian woman to produce an heir for his line, but Katya can be his mistress in the meantime.

Over the seas and rivers, through Europe, and into Russia, Dimitri tries what he can to seduce her back into his arms.

But Katherine has a will made of steel. Even though she wants him just as much as he wants her.

[He] wanted her. Incredible fantasy. This fairy-tale prince, this golden god wanted her. Her. It boggled the mind. It defied reason. And she said no. Stupid ninny!

SECRET FIRE

Final Analysis of Secret Fire

I love Katherine. Like Georgina Anderson from Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue, she has a habit of talking to herself, a trait I share, to my husband’s annoyance. Katherine’s fiercely proud, stubborn, and resilient. She’s not my favorite Lindsey heroine, but she is up there with the best. One of my favorite scenes is after Dimitri’s aunt decides to discipline Katherine, and Dimitri’s horrified reaction to it all, combined with Katherine’s stiff-upper-lip reserve.

Dimitri is as equally stubborn and proud as Katherine. But nowhere near as brilliant. That’s ok. His charm and godlike looks make up for it!

This is another of Lindsey’s excellent romances that I’ve re-read many times. Secret Fire is an absolute wonder, the hero, the heroine, the plot, the writing, all of it.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

He’d caught only a glimpse of her from the window of his carriage, but the young prince knew he had to have her. Within minutes, Lady Katherine St. John was dragged from the London street and carried off to a sumptuous town house — for the pleasure of her royal admirer…

From the tempestuous passion of their first encounter, across stormy seas, to the golden splendor of palaces in Moscow, she was his prisoner — obsessed with rage toward her captor even as an all-consuming need made her his slave. Yet theirs was a fervor beyond her understanding, carrying them irrevocably toward final surrender to the power of undeniable love.

Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
fire blossom

Covers of the Week #23

By Mary Anne Landers

Who Loves Elaine Duillo? I Do!

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.

The Covers

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!

2) Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey, science fiction romance, Avon, 1990. Models: Cindy Guyer, Fabio (Fabio Lanzoni). I think this one speaks for itself!

3) I dunno the title of the book or the author, but I dig this tender scene. In a setting pretty rare in historical romance, ancient Greece. Or is it Rome? Whatever. I downloaded this unidentified pic from Goodreads. A friend of mine said the artist is Elaine Duillo. Then I noticed her signature under the man’s left sandal. This Duillo features one of her recurring themes, scads of flowers and greenery. And the drama! We can’t be sure what the girl is thinking, but it’s obvious what the guy is thinking. The contrasting light and dark sky accent the drama. Can you recognize the book? If so, please leave the title in the comments.

4) And last but not least: How do you like them apples? The stepback cover for The Present by Johanna Lindsey, historical romance, Avon, 1998. The two panels open like a pair of interior shutters to show this passionate scene. I haven’t read the book, but according to the Amazon synopsis, the guy is the heir of a wealthy land-owning family. The girl is one of the hired help. But clearly, she’s climbing the social ladder!

[EDIT 1.18.2022 – Image #4 is NOT from Johanna Lindsey’s The Present, but from Kristin Hannah’s 1993 Ballantine/Ivy romance If You Believe. Also, we have no confirmation that this is an Elaine Duillo cover, as no signature can be seen like in the other covers. It could an Elaine or the handiwork of her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo, although we can’t confirm that either. Still, it’s a lovely picture to look upon. Just to round things out, we’ll add another Elaine Duillo image beneath these.]

[EDIT 4.26.22 – We have confirmed Image #4 was not an Elaine Duillo cover. It has been erroneously posted on the web as being attributed to her design of Johanna Lindsey’s The Present but is actually a stepback for Kristin Hannah’s If You Believe, and possibly painted by James Griffin. We have deleted this and apologize for the error. That’s to Courtney McCaskill for the head’s up and information!]

Next time I’ll post four covers from another illustrator. Any requests?

An Extra Elaine Duillo Cover

Never Love a Cowboy, Jill Gregory, Dell, 1998, Elaine Duillo cover art

quiet comes the night

Covers of the Week #22

Theme: Category Romance

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!

The Covers

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 Elaine Duillo, Robert Maguire, Elaine Gignilliat, and Pino. Enjoy!

  • Quiet Comes the Night, Jessica Jeffries, Harlequin, Elaine Duillo cover art
  • Every Moment Counts, Martha Hix, Silhouette, Robert Maguire cover art
  • Babycakes, Glenda Sanders, Harlequin, Elaine Gignilliat cover art,
  • Stormy Vows, Iris Johansen, Bantam, Pino cover art

Covers of the Week #19

elaine duillo

Artist: Elaine Duillo

The Queen of Historical Romance Covers

Elaine Duillo was the “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. She was an inductee of the prestigious Illustrators Hall of fame. And Duillo was the matriarch of a talented artistic family.

Sadly, she passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.

This amazing artist influenced generations of illustrators and revolutionized romance cover art. She helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio. One of the covers I chose, Defy Not the Heart, features Fabio and was a favorite of Elaine’s. 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 were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that, I say. Display those gorgeous illustrations displayed proudly!

Sweet Savage Flame Remembers Elaine

Sweet Savage Flame laments 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.

Here is a small sampling of my favorite romance covers painted by the late, great Elaine Duillo for this week of Monday, August 16 – Sunday, August 22, 2021.


This Side of Heaven
This Side of Heaven, Katherine Robards, Dell, 1991, (Interior stepback)
Bold Destiny

Covers of the Week #15

melissa duillo gallo

Artist: Melissa Duillo-Gallo

The Duillo family was filled with artistic talent. There was John Duillo, the great pulp cover artist. Of course, his wife Elaine was a pioneer for women in the field. She not only painted pulp covers but went on to become the “Queen of Romance Covers.” Did you know their daughter, Melissa Duillo-Gallo, was also a romance cover illustrator?

From the 1980s to the 1990s, Melissa Gallo (née Duillo), was a prolific historical romance cover artist, creating works for publishers such as Avon, Dell, Warner, Zebra, and more. While she and her mother no longer illustrate romance covers, Melissa is still creating art as a talented painter.

Melissa Gallo Paints is where you can get access to her current work. I also have a dedicated Pinterest page to her romance covers here.

For a long time, I used to get Elaine and Melissa’s artwork confused. Now I can spot the differences between mom’s and her daughter’s work. For one thing, Melissa Duillo preferred her models to wear more clothes, and also, she was more conservative with the use of eyeshadow, especially for the heroes!

Both Duillo ladies collaborated with supermodel Fabio many times.

The Covers

Here are some lovely romance covers that Melissa Duillo Gallo designed for you to enjoy. These are our Covers of the Week for Monday, July 19 to Sunday, July 25,

My Lord Monleigh

Covers of the Week #14

Theme: Highland Romance Novels

For the week starting Monday, July 12 to Sunday, July, 18, I thought some Historical Highland romance novels or Scottish-themed covers would be a bonny sight for your eyes to enjoy.

once a princess duillo

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Cardinia Royalty #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

“Tanya, ya slut!”

ONCE A PRINCESS

Once a Princess was not one of my favorites by Johanna Lindsey. I’d put this in the unremarkable category with books like Glorious Angel and Tender is the Storm. Not her worst, by any means, but not her best either.

The Cover

Perhaps it had to do with Once A Princess’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine.

So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back, and I prefer an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up.

And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?

once a princess cover

The Plot

The plot about the search for a secret princess from a fictional country was all right. It was the main characters that made this one almost unbearable.

It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana. She was stolen as an infant from her family, who’ve searched for her for years. So how will Stefan know who she is? Well, she’s got a special little birthmark hidden away in a very private place that will prove her identity. That sounds positively regal.

Tanya, the princess they’re looking for, works in a tavern as a maid, gets paid a pittance, and is treated like garbage. I believe the first words spoken to her were “Tanya, ya slut!” so you know she gets no respect.

She tries to make herself look ugly on purpose for the customers not to harass her. All Tanya had was dirt and mud smeared on her face, but Stefan thought Tanya was unattractive, too. That is until her ugly makeup comes off when she does some naked swimming, and Stefan catches sight of her.

I couldn’t enjoy the story because I never warmed up to the characters. This was one of those Lindseys where the protagonists are unbearable. Stefan was a grouch, mainly because of his insecurity about being ugly. His face was scarred by an injury from an animal’s claws. Tanya was too feisty, always fighting for the sake of fighting. So together, they just argued and argued for ages.

I much preferred Stefan’s sexy cousin, Vasili, and I suppose Johanna Lindsey did also, as she gave Vasili his own book, You Belong to Me.

Final Analysis of Once a Princess

It took forever to finish Once a Princess, and I skimmed a lot to get to the end. For me to do that with a Johanna Lindsey book was unheard of at the time. I thought this one was a sign of ominous things to come, but for the time being, it was an anomaly, as I loved her next books from Prisoner of My Desire to Surrender My Love.

After that, I was busy with school and a social life that consisted of dating guys rather than reading about them. Therefore I had neither the time nor inclination to read romances until I settled down years later.

(TMI, I know, but that’s what I do in these reviews.)

2.12 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 2.6

Synopsis:

Once Upon A Time…In a rustic Mississippi tavern, a beautiful exiled princess was forced to dance for the pleasure of others unaware of her regal birthright…and infuriated by a magnificent golden-eyed devil who crossed an ocean to possess her. From A Far Off Land… A bold and brazen prince came to America to claim his promised bride. But the spirited vixen spurned his affections while inflaming his royal blood with passion’s fire…impelling virile Stefan Barany to take in sensuous and searing conquest the love Tatiana vowed never to yield.

ONCE A PRINCESS by JOHANNA LINDSEY
savageconquestduillo

Historical Romance Review: Savage Conquest by Janelle Taylor

book review historical romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Savage Conquest, the 9th and final book–although the 6th published–in the Ecstasy/Gray Eagle series by Janelle Taylor.

savageconquestduillo
Savage Conquest, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1985, Elaine Duillo cover art

The Plot

Amanda

Savage Conquest begins in 1873, approximately 17 years after the previous book, Forever Ecstasy, ended. It is not a happy time for Miranda Lawrence, the “heroine” of the book–only in the second half–and her fraternal twin, Amanda, the heroine of the first half, both 18. Their parents, Joe and Marie “Morning Star” Lawrence are presumed dead in a boating accident. (Their bodies have not been recovered.)

Amanda, who is seeing fellow shipping company owner Weber Richardson, decides to take over the family business. She also later meets Reis Harrison, a man whom she is attracted to, and starts to fall in love with. There are, however, issues standing in their way: Reis is not entirely truthful about why he came to Virginia, and he has a long-standing beef with Weber, who feels similarly predisposed towards Reis.

Amanda and Reis become lovers and later marry surreptitiously, and Reis sets into motion a plan in which he hopes to trap Weber and expose him for what he really is.

Miranda

Meanwhile, Miranda and the girls’ cousin, Lucas Reardon, a newspaper writer, travel to the Dakotas; Lucas for business and Miranda to try to meet her mother’s estranged family. Miranda is saved from snakes-the two-legged and reptilian kind-by an Oglala Lakota brave, Blazing Star, the hero of her part of the book.

Miranda and Blazing Star become lovers, although he is reluctant to commit to her due to concerns about the future of the Oglala people.

A series of challenges are faced by Amanda, Reis, Miranda, and Blazing Star, but they are conquered for the most part, and the two couples get a pleasant surprise and have their Happily Ever After.

Savage Conquest
Savage Conquest, Reissue

Upside of Savage Conquest

Mrs. Taylor is an evocative writer, and as she usually does, she put me as a reader in her characters’ lives, allowing me to view them not as words on a page, but as real people. Savage Conquest, like all the books in the Ecstasy/Gray Eagle series, is well-researched.

Downside of Savage Conquest

I felt that Mrs. Taylor could have done a better job displaying her male characters’ emotions; most of the emotional depth in the book comes from Miranda and Amanda. This book was not originally intended to be part of the Ecstasy/Gray Eagle series and it shows, as some of the storylines to me feel a little forced to fit the story arc of the series as opposed to the originally planned standalone.

Sex

Mrs. Taylor’s love scenes are known for their “purple prose”, and there’s plenty of it here. As always, Mrs. Taylor’s sex scenes are more about the emotions of the act than a description of the mechanics.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape-both Miranda and Amanda-as well as human and animal murder. (Blazing Star kills a bear.)

Bottom Line on Savage Conquest

Savage Conquest isn’t as well-written as my favorite by Mrs. Taylor, Sweet Savage Heart. It isn’t her best book, but it’s still pretty good.

4 Stars


Synopsis

There was no Virginia belle more irresistible than ebon-haired Miranda Lawrence. Though the willful beauty had her pick of handsome beaux, she felt a wild need deep within her for the kind of man she’d never meet in polite society. Heeding the call of her destiny, Miranda stole away from her plantation home, back to the land of her mother’s people. But when she found the passion she sought in the arms of handsome Indian, Miranda had to make a final choice–between the life she’d left behind and the future that would giver her his love!

Savage Conquest – Janelle Taylor
the heir cover

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
The Heir by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 2000
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Reid Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Victorian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 416
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

Was this tepid, dull romance actually penned by Johanna Lindsey? The Heir was Lindsey’s first book where I noticed a weird change. Previously, if there was a Lindsey I didn’t like, it was due to a meandering plot or excessive fighting between the leads. There is friendship for sure in this one, but romantic isn’t what I’d call the relationship between Duncan and Sabrina.

The Plot: Friends to Lovers

Duncan, a Highland Scot, is the newly made heir to an English Marquess. Everyone in the county is eager to meet this young laird–er lord–especially the unmarried ladies. Our heroine Sabrina, however, has no designs on Duncan. She’s plump, plain, and orphaned. Sabrina’s not anyone’s ideal candidate for a wife. Certainly not for an heir to a Marquessate.

One of the ladies with eyes on Duncan is the beautiful Miss Ophelia. Ophelia desperately wants to be a Marchioness. She will connive to do whatever it takes to move up the social ladder.

When Duncan and Sabrina meet, there are no sparks. They are cordial to one another, though. A friendship forms between the two outsiders. They meet on walks and talk.

Then, one night–totally out of the blue–Sabrina and Duncan’s relationship turns physical. The pair make love. Boring, boring, love.

Thus, by doing so, Duncan has ruined his dear friend Sabrina.

A Weak Hero With No Backbone

In a shocking twist (not really), Ophelia schemes to make it appear as if Duncan ruined her. So the red-haired idiot decides to do the honorable thing: marry Ophelia, the woman he hates. If Duncan truly had any honor, he would have done right by Sabrina. Instead, he cowardly leaves her in the dust. At only 21, Duncan flounders in areas where a more mature man would have acted differently. I can’t imagine previous Lindsay heroes going along with this stupidity.

Of course, Sabrina says nothing about her part, as she wants no part in a scandal. Plus, boo-hoo, she wasn’t cut out for marriage anyway. She’s so fat! Who in his right mind would want a 140-pound schlub like her? (Yes, folks, that’s sarcasm.)

If it weren’t for the only person in this book with any charisma, Raphael, twisting Ophelia’s arm to break the engagement, Duncan would have married a woman he didn’t have to. A woman he didn’t love but despised! As it is, I wasn’t even sure if Duncan loved Sabrina. They were pals. Yes, they conversed with one another without resorting to bickering, like so many Lindsey leads tended to do. Nevertheless, they lacked chemistry.

I wasn’t fond of most of the characters. Raphael was the lone exception. Sabrina was spineless. Duncan was a squish with an annoying brogue. Ophelia was just a nasty witch who didn’t deserve her own book. Oh yes, she gets paired off with Raphael in The Devil Who Tamed Her.

Final Analysis of The Heir

When I saw Duncan’s mullet hairstyle on the inside of the stepback edition of this book, I cringed. Gone were the halcyon days of Fabio. Even sadder, this was one of Elaine Duillo‘s last covers for Johanna Lindsey. An era was over.

I listened to The Heir on audio cassette while I drove to and from work. That’s the only way I could have consumed this story. Reading it would have been a chore. As it was, that daily one-hour round trip should have passed easily with an audiobook to listen to. But it didn’t–because The Heir was not an engaging romance.

It just was. (Does that make sense?)

After The Heir, I’ve only read one “newer” Lindsey I enjoyed: When Passion Rules. That was a mildly better version of Once A Princess, another book I wasn’t crazy about.

Oh well, Johanna Lindsey had a long run as a writer of wonderful novels that made the historical romance genre exciting. She’s now gone to the great beyond to be with her beloved husband. Lindsey leaves behind a legacy of entertaining romances that made tens of millions of readers giddy with joy. Too bad, for me, The Heir wasn’t one of them.

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
1.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 2.5

Synopsis

Has anyone in London ever taken part in the coming-out Season with less enthusiasm than Sabrina? Luckily, the most sought-after lady in the city has agreed to usher this young, lovely country girl through the perils and pitfalls of her all-important first season.

Dashing highlander Duncan MacTavish is even less keen to be in London. Having recently learned he is the sole heir of an English marquis, Duncan is now required to assume his grandfather’s title and estates—and to marry Sabrina’s ravishing, viper-tongued guide, who has been heard to make scathing statements in public about her “Scottish barbarian” groom-to-be.

His unwanted betrothal, however, has brought Duncan into close proximity with the enchanting Sabrina—a kindred spirit whose wit delights him… and whose essence is the exquisite stuff of dreams. But duty, station, and a secret that dwells in the lady’s past forbid Sabrina’s and Duncan’s desired union—unless true love can somehow miraculously find a way.

The Heir by Johanna Lindsey